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An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
FIGURE 4-1 Results from NASA Phase II projects.
SOURCE: NRC Phase II Survey. Based on responses to Phase II Survey questions 1a, 1b, 3a, and 3b.
These figures appear lower than those for other agencies, notably DoD and NIH. However, direct comparisons of results from the NRC Phase II Survey are not valid because of survey response issues. And it should be noted that the very high degree of skew combined with smaller number of awards at NASA means that comparisons are likely to be even more inaccurate (NASA may simply not have made enough awards to generate a statistically significant number of big winners—firms with more than $10 million in sales—though it might be a matter of concern if current trends continued indefinitely). This distribution is reflected in Figure 4-2.
More than 80 percent of the projects reporting sales greater than zero had $1 million or less in sales, as seen in Figure 4-3.
The numerous projects with relatively low sales (below $1 million) are also in line with our understanding of commercialization within NASA itself. According to the SBIR liaison office at the Space Operations Mission Directorate, the average Phase II award at NASA is on the order of $500,000-600,000.21 This is of course sharply lower than those at DoD, and reflects the particular needs and objectives of NASA programs. As a result, however, a an SBIR project that was successful from NASA’s perspective—even one that resulted in technologies being adopted for a space flight mission—might well generate commercial returns of less than $1 million.
Interview with Jason Crusan, Program Integration Office, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA, December 7, 2007.