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INTRODUCTION

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) requested that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Fast Track program to determine, to the extent possible,

  • if the Fast Track Initiative encourages more rapid commercialization of research results through the acquisition of private investment capital, and

  • if Fast Track projects progress more rapidly than do the standard SBIR awards.

To accomplish this, NAS undertook a multifaceted research strategy that included both a broad-based mail survey to a representative sample of SBIR awardees and focused regional case studies from that sample.

This descriptive paper presents the findings from 12 case studies of award recipients in southeastern states. It will join other researchers ’ papers that focus on various regions of the United States. In the second section, the overall NAS strategy for the collection of information related to the above two questions is described. Then, In the third section, the process for selecting these 12 southeastern firms is presented. In the fourth section, observations about the commercialization impacts realized to date from the Fast Track Initiative are offered. In the fifth section, observations about other project impacts are discussed. In the sixth section, estimates of the social benefits associated with the SBIR program, and the Fast Track Initiative in particular, are presented.1 Concluding remarks are presented in the last section. The Appendix to the paper contains brief summaries of each of the 12 projects studied.

NAS STRATEGY FOR COLLECTION OF INFORMATION

NAS was asked by DoD to determine, to the extent possible,

  • if the Fast Track Initiative encourages more rapid commercialization of research results through the acquisition of private investment capital, and

  • if Fast Track projects progress more rapidly than do the standard SBIR awards.

Toward that end, a team of researchers was assembled, and each was assigned a different region of the country from which to identify a sample of Fast Track program awardees and non-Fast Track program awardees. Each researcher was given latitude with regard to how he/she approached the questions during the interview data collection process; however, certain crosscutting issues were common to each. These crosscutting issues related to information about the background of each firm being interviewed, information about how the SBIR award is affecting the firm’s research and commercialization strategy, and each firm’s general opinion about the administration of the SBIR awards program.

1  

A more detailed analysis is provided by Link and Scott, “Estimates of the Social Returns to Small Business Innovation Research Projects?” in this volume.



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