Second, can the management of agency SBIR programs be made more effective? Are there best practices in agency SBIR programs that may be extended to other agencies’ SBIR programs?

To satisfy the congressional request for an external assessment of the program, the NRC conducted empirical analyses of the operations of SBIR based on commissioned surveys and case studies. Agency-compiled program data, program documents, and the existing literature were reviewed. In addition, extensive interviews and discussions were conducted with project managers, program participants, agency ‘users’ of the program, as well as program stakeholders.

The study as a whole sought to answer questions of program operation and effectiveness, including the quality of the research projects being conducted under the SBIR program, the commercialization of the research, and the program’s contribution to accomplishing agency missions. To the extent possible, the evaluation included estimates of the benefits (both economic and noneconomic) achieved by the SBIR program, as well as broader policy issues associated with public-private collaborations for technology development and government support for high technology innovation.

Taken together, this study is the most comprehensive assessment of SBIR to date. Its empirical, multifaceted approach to evaluation sheds new light on the operation of the SBIR program in the challenging area of early stage finance. As with any assessment, particularly one across five quite different agencies and departments, there are methodological challenges. These are identified and discussed at several points in the text. This important caveat notwithstanding, the scope and diversity of the report’s research should contribute significantly to the understanding of the SBIR program’s multiple objectives, measurement issues, operational challenges, and achievements. This volume presents the committee’s assessment of the SBIR program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

This study analyzes program data from the period before the 2006 NASA reorganization, which also altered the management of the SBIR program. Nonetheless, the results of this study are valuable, not least as a point of reference to see whether the organizational changes make recently have enhanced the effectiveness of the NASA SBIR program.

II.
SBIR AT NASA

Program Size

With $103 million in annual awards in 2005, NASA operates the fourth largest SBIR program in the federal government.

A NASA SBIR Phase I award is currently set at a maximum of $100,000 and lasts for six months. A Phase II award is set at a maximum of $600,000 and



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