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International Space Station
International Space Station (ISS)

The Space Vehicle        . . . . .on Main Street

Part One

See also:
The Space Vehicle on Main Street -- Part Two
The Space Vehicle on Main Street -- Part Three
Federal grants are an overlooked option for bootstrapping startups
          by Robert A. Adelson, Esquire

          At first blush, space technology may not appear to be the arena where one would expect to find the smaller business. This is uncompromising high-tech stuff, the kind of work where we expect to find the Lockheed Martin Corporation, McDonald Douglas Corporation, and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). And, of course, we do!

          But for every multi-million dollar contract awarded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to a Rockwell International Corporation, NASA has hundreds of contracts with smaller businesses and entrepreneurs -- the names of many of these specialized companies not even being recognizable to most of us. Too many smaller companies are often unaware of the availability of these attractive contracts.

          The US Congress established in 1982 a unique initiative within NASA -- the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program -- to identify and foster increased opportunities for US-owned smaller businesses and entrepreneurs (companies with less than 500 employees) to participate in Federal research and development. The SBIR program encourages small firms owned by women or by socially and economically disadvantaged persons to participate in government research and development. SBIR provides seed capital to increase private sector commercialization of innovations resulting from Federal research and development. This program furnishes seed capital to accelerate private sector commercialization of innovations resulting from Federal research and development.

          An important goal of the SBIR program has been to increase employment and improve US competitiveness. This program's specific objectives are:

          In 1992, the Congress extended and strengthened the SBIR program and increased its emphasis on pursuing commercial applications of SBIR project results.

          Eleven Federal agencies with research and development budgets exceeding $100.0 million have implemented SBIR programs. Funding is assured by allocating a percentage of each agency's external R&D budget for SBIR; in 1995, this percentage was two percent. Each agency administers its own individual program within guidelines established by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is responsible for establishing governing policy and for overall program monitoring, reporting, and analysis.

          The structure of the SBIR program reflects the recognition by the Congress that the processes of innovation and bringing new products to the marketplace have a high degree of technical and financial risk. Therefore, this program has three phases:

          This examination of the Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program will be the focus of our subsequent column.

Your comments and suggestions for these pages are most welcomed!

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