structural barriers that make it hard to develop substantial markets based on the highly NASA-specific technologies the agency tends to fund.

Agency Mission

While it is difficult to find good data on the extent to which SBIR supports NASA’s mission we can conclude the following:

  • The SBIR program has been aligned with the agency needs, primarily through the topic development and award selection processes. This process has been considerably altered by changes made in FY2006.

  • Outcomes from the SBIR program appear to be aligned with agency needs, although the small number of projects that are selected for NASA Phase III funding helped to drive the FY2006 reforms.

  • Agency staff in general indicate that SBIR awards are of comparable quality to other NASA research projects.

This analysis also indicates that early involvement with and “ownership” of SBIR projects by NASA technical staff is an important factor in the successful utilization of SBIR for agency purposes.

Support for Woman- and Minority-owned Businesses

NASA’s SBIR program supports the participation of minority and woman-owned small business in innovation research.55

More widely, SBIR significantly supports small high technology businesses in general, and the NRC research determined that SBIR had an important catalytic effect in terms of company foundation—providing the critical seed money to fund a company’s first steps. SBIR also had strongly influenced companies’ decisions to initiate individual projects: 68 percent of NRC Phase II Survey respondents at NASA believed that their projects would not have gone forward without SBIR, and, of the remainder, most believed that the projects would have been delayed and/or would have had a reduced scope.56

Support for the Advancement of Scientific and Technical Knowledge

The program funds cutting-edge research, as it was designed to do. One of the key selection criteria at NASA is “technical innovation.”

NASA SBIR funding also supports the dissemination of knowledge through traditional vectors such as peer-reviewed publications, as well traditional indica-


See Chapter 3 of this report for more details.


NRC Phase II Survey, Questions 13-14.

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