The core finding of the study is that the SBIR program is sound in concept and effective in practice. It can also be improved. Currently, the program is delivering results that meet most of the congressional objectives. Specifically, the program is:

  • Stimulating Technological Innovation4

    • Generating Multiple Knowledge Outputs. SBIR projects yield a variety of knowledge outputs. These contributions to knowledge are embodied in data, scientific and engineering publications, patents and licenses of patents, presentations, analytical models, algorithms, new research equipment, reference samples, prototypes products and processes, spin-off companies, and new “human capital” (enhanced know-how, expertise, and sharing of knowledge).5

    • Linking Universities to the Public and Private Markets. The SBIR program supports the transfer of research into the marketplace, as well as the general expansion of scientific and technical knowledge, through a wide variety of mechanisms. With regard to SBIR’s role in linking universities to the market, three metrics from the NRC Phase II Survey and NRC Firm Survey reveal the relatively high level of university connections. Over a third of respondents to the NRC surveys reported university involvement in their SBIR project. Among those reporting university involvement,

      • More than two-thirds of companies reported that at least one founder was previously an academic;

      • About one-third of founders were most recently employed as academics before founding the company; and

      • Some 27 percent of projects had university faculty as contractors on the project, 17 percent used universities themselves as subcontractors, and 15 percent employed graduate students.

    • These data underscore the significant level of involvement by universities in the program and highlight the program’s contribution to the transition of university research to the marketplace.6


See related Finding F in Chapter 2.


Surveys commissioned by the NRC for this study indicate that 29.3 percent of projects received at least one patent related to their SBIR research (see Table 4-11). The NRC survey also determined that 45.4 percent of respondents reported publishing at least one related peer-reviewed scientific paper (see Table 4-12). These data fit well with case studies and interviews of firms, which suggest that SBIR companies are proud of the quality of their research. Further, as highlighted in some firm interviews, metrics like patents and publications do not tell the full story; there may be benefits from the development and diffusion of knowledge that are not reflected in any qualitative metric. See, for example, the case study of Language Weaver in Appendix C of this report.


See Section on university faculty and company formation. Also see Table 4-13 on university involvement in SBIR projects.

    The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
    Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
    Terms of Use and Privacy Statement