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An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the Department of Energy
Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported that the project funded by the Phase II award definitely would not have been undertaken in the absence of the SBIR funding, and another 44 percent indicated that it probably would not have been undertaken. This matches data from the NRC Phase I Survey noted earlier—that about four-fifths of projects would not have been undertaken without the Phase II funding. Another 13 percent of respondents were uncertain. Only 4 percent of respondents likely would have undertaken the project without the Phase II award, and only one firm indicated that it definitely would have pursued its project.
These data are further supported by case study analysis. Without exception, all of the case study companies indicated that SBIR was vital to the development of their technology. Most said that the technology would not have been created if there had been no SBIR program.
7.3 BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS AND ENHANCING NETWORKS
The SBIR program also facilitates technological innovation through the creation of new research and commercialization partnerships and by strengthening networks of small businesses and innovators. Some of the firms interviewed for this study—for example, Creare—reported that pre-proposal networking involving small and large companies increases the likelihood of commercial sales. One company (NanoScience) found that the application process itself could become a networking vehicle for the purpose of identifying downstream partners; as the company gathered information for completing its proposal, it contacted a wide variety of industry representatives.
The active engagement of an agency program manager can also support this type of networking; in one instance, a Navy technical topic manager introduced an awardee to over 300 people and helped set up 100 presentations (Creare).
Figure 7-2 shows the type and status of relationships with other organizations, as reported through the NRC Phase II Survey. Three quarters of respondents reported either a formalized relationship with other companies and investors, or an attempt to establish such relationships, as a result of the technology developed during the subject Phase II project.
Fifteen percent had finalized plans for licensing agreements with respect U.S. companies and investors, and another 15 percent were in negotiations. Other finalized agreements also were reported: market and distribution (9 percent), customer alliances (8 percent), R&D agreements (8 percent), manufacturing (6 percent), and sale of technology rights (5 percent). In these categories, similar numbers were reported to be in ongoing negotiations, as well.
NRC Phase II Survey responses further indicate that relationships are forged not only with domestic partners but also with foreign companies or investors. Approximately 14 percent of respondents were involved in licensing agreements with foreign partners (5 percent finalized, another 9 percent in negotiations),