SBIR (1983-2009?); Program Set to Expire on March 20
Inconceivable? Unconscionable? Inexcusable? Which word best conveys what is happening to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program? Perhaps all of them. The SBIR program will expire March 20 unless Congress acts before that date.
No SBIR-related legislation has been considered by either chamber of Congress since the current session began in early January, and without action by Congress by March 20, the program expires. SBIR could be attached to some other bill before the deadline, but there is no indication at this point that that is going to occur.
It is inconceivable that one of the most successful federal programs to support the commercialization of innovation will be allowed to expire at the same time the country is desperately seeking investments to prepare the nation for the next economy. As SSTI has reported, significant portions of the Recovery Act are focused on investing in the future. Green technologies. Alternative energy. Information and communication technologies. Smart tech. SBIR should play an important role in that – just as it has supported the early development of a number of important technologies and tens of thousands of companies for the past 25 years.
It is unconscionable and inexcusable to think that a federal program would be allowed to expire that has proven to be effective. In addition to the hundreds of anecdotal success stories and profit statements from small businesses, a multimillion dollar independent assessment conducted by the National Academies of Science found SBIR to be effective.
The battle over inclusion of venture-backed biotech firms in SBIR derailed passage of an SBIR reauthorization bill last year. Both proponents and opponents were unwilling to compromise, and it seems both sides will lose now.
SBIR has proven to be a valuable screening tool for venture capitalists across many disciplines, including biotech. Compared to other small businesses, most SBIR winners are worthy of a closer look when prospecting for firms to add to an equity portfolio. Is VC eligibility going to prove to be the deal-breaker for SBIR’s continued existence?
We've seen from past history that some agencies are not likely to continue to maintain SBIR programs unless it is mandatory. SBIR reauthorization has to be passed to make that happen in all 11 research-intensive agencies. Several Phase I deadlines are looming and for other agencies proposal review is underway for both Phase I and Phase II. Will these processes end abruptly? What will happen to those companies that have already won Phase Is and are waiting decisions on their Phase IIs? Forced layoffs and bankruptcies of promising tech firms does not seem to be the wisest strategy to get us out of the current economic quagmire.
SBIR through its competitive application process and market-driven need for the resulting innovations to be commercialized, costs less than $ 3 billion a year and supports thousands of small businesses across the country and several thousands more high-wage jobs for some of the nation’s smartest entrepreneurs.
This one seems pretty simple. SBIR reauthorization should be part of the economy’s solution.
Virginia Lawmakers Approve Energy Initiatives, Consolidate
Several of Gov. Tim Kaine’s energy and job creation proposals were included in the approved revisions to Virginia’s current two-year budget passed by the General Assembly last month. Lawmakers, faced with a projected $ 3.7 billion deficit, made revisions and incorporated federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to amend the budget.
Legislators passed a measure proposed by Gov. Kaine to merge the Innovative Technology Authority (ITA) and the Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission into a single entity named the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority.
The new Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority will continue the work of the ITA – the governing body of the Center for Innovative Technology – with heightened responsibilities regarding the oversight of R&D efforts, according to the governor’s office. The authority is charged with developing a strategic roadmap for the state identifying research areas worthy of institutional focus and incorporating the strategic plan for each of Virginia’s research universities.
The revised budget uses federal stimulus money to boost funding for the Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund. Legislators approved an amendment authorizing the governor to use $ 588,945 in federal stimulus funds for economic development projects in the second year. Total funding available is $ 12.5 million in FY10, an increase of $ 5 million in the second year from the approved 2008-10 biennial budget. Lawmakers also restored $ 500,000 that was removed in the governor’s proposed amendments for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Another $ 127 million in federal stimulus money was approved for colleges and universities by lawmakers, who directed school officials not to raise tuition more than 5 percent in the fall, reports The Washington Post. The General Assembly will convene April 8 to consider Gov. Kaine’s vetoes.
Gov. Kaine won approval for reform measures under the Renew Virginia Initiative announced in December as a green jobs and energy proposal (see the Jan.7, 2008 issue of the Digest). They include:
Tax credits for individuals and corporate entities to install renewable energy systems and a measure to exempt sales and use tax for renewable energy systems installed on residential property were not approved.
Lawmakers passed a measure increasing incentive funding for grants provided through the Virginia Investment Partnership Act. The measure, HB 2442, raises the per project amount for Virginia Investment Performance grants from $ 1.5 million to $ 3 million and is intended to encourage expansion of manufacturing and R&D services supporting manufacturing in the state. Budget documents note that because of a two or three year lag between a company’s performance and its receipt of grant payments, no fiscal impact will occur in the current biennium.
To expedite the state’s deployment and reduce cost of broadband access, legislators approved SB 1336, establishing the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Council.
The conference report is available at: http://leg2.state.va.us/moneyweb.nsf/bud2009.return to the top of the page
As Embryonic Stem Cell Limits Lift, Will State TBED Be
On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order concerning embryonic stem cell research in addition to signing a presidential memorandum that strengthens the influence of science-based decision making in the executive branch of the federal government.
The executive order consists of three main points. It revokes previous presidential executive orders limiting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, it supports the NIH conducting responsible and scientifically worthy research with human embryonic stem cells, and it requests the Secretary of Health and Human Services to review and issue new guidelines concerning human stem cell research within 120 days. Instead of restricting access for scientists who receive federal funds to 21 embryonic stem cell lines created before August 2001, researchers can now use federal support to access other stem cell lines.
While President Obama's order broadens opportunities for federal stem cell research funding by lifting previous executive orders issued by former President Bush, it remains to be seen if Congress will impose new or additional restrictions through legislation.
But how will the president’s actions impact state and regional efforts to encourage growth through the life sciences?
It will not make much difference at all in some states where laws were passed. Laws on human embryonic stem cell research vary by limits placed on their four sources: existing stem cell lines, unused in vitro fertilized embryos, aborted or miscarried embryos, and cloned embryos, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). South Dakota, for example, prohibits research on embryos regardless of the source. Louisiana is the only state that prohibits research utilizing in vitro fertilized embryos, according to the NCSL. The Arizona Republic reported that the Obama's executive order will have “little impact” in Arizona because the state legislature has previously set limits on embryonic stem cell research.
In states with fewer legal restrictions on embryonic stem cell usage, or states that promote utilizing embryonic stem cells, research may become a more efficient process as funds and physical resources from federal, state, and philanthropic resources can now be pooled together in laboratories. The potential access to more federal funding increases as well.
NCSL’s comparative analysis on each state’s legislation concerning varying provisions of embryonic stem cell research is available at:
The recently signed executive order on embryonic stem cells is
President Obama’s memorandum, which instructs the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop within 120 days recommendations “to guarantee scientific integrity” in the executive branch, is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Memorandum-for-the-Heads-of-Executive-Departments-and-Agencies-3-9-09/return to the top of the page
Savannah Orgs Offer Free Rent to Game Development
Savannah’s Creative Coast Alliance (TCCa) and the Savannah Economic Development Authority recently announced that they would provide up to one year of free rent for game designers to take up residence at the region’s new Game Development and Digital Media Center. The offer is intended to promote the city’s image as a center for game design and help provide local opportunities for graduates from the Savannah campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) Interactive Design and Game Development Program. For the past five years, SCAD has sponsored the annual Game Developers eXchange, a national event for the industry that has drawn greater attention to the region. In the press release announcing the free rent offer, TCCa bills Savannah as an alternative for companies looking to establish an East Coast presence with a low cost-of-living, high quality-of-life and a rich talent pool.
The release also highlights the incentives the state of Georgia has put in place over the past few years to entice game developers. Last year, the Georgia Department of Economic Development expanded the Entertainment Industry Investment Act to provide a 20 percent base tax credit on all qualified expenditures within Georgia, such as labor, materials, and services. The state offers an additional 10 percent credit if the firm places a state of Georgia promotional logo within the games they design.
By targeting video game developers, Savannah and the state of Georgia are hoping to buck some of the trends affecting the national video game industry. Despite the sluggish economy, sales of game hardware, software and accessories were up 19 percent in 2008, according to the industry-tracking NPD Group. Game design studios, however, reported losses and massive job cuts. Much of the disconnect between the high sales numbers and industry losses is due to ballooning development costs, according to a recent article in Slate magazine. The transition to high-definition games and more refined game engines has inflated development costs and prompted losses from industry heavyweights like Electronic Arts and Activision-Blizzard even as demand grows.
As a result many jobs in the industry have been lost and studios have started closing branch locations around the country. Electronic Arts announced in December that the company would cut more than 1,000 jobs, including staff at the Maitland, FL-based EA Tiburon branch. Ensemble Studios, a Microsoft-owned developer in Dallas closed last month, while Austin branches of NCSoft and Midway cut more than 100 positions last year. This week, THQ announced that it would close its Champaign, IL, quality-assurance facility.
Georgia is not the only state trying to draw in new game design jobs despite these layoffs. Last year, Michigan became one of the few states to include video game studios in its package of incentives for film production companies. The state offers a tax credit of up to 42 percent on project expenditures. Texas offers grants of up to $ 250,000 for game development projects in the state (see the July 11, 2007 issue of the Digest).
More information about the Savannah initiative is available at: http://theoffer.thecreativecoast.org/return to the top of the page
Research Park Round Up
The following overview is a synopsis of select recent announcements from research parks across the nation, including groundbreakings and development plans to support vibrant regional economies based on science, technology and innovation.
The University of Missouri Mizzou Innovation Center is the anchor research tenant in the new Missouri Innovation Park – a 500-acre knowledge-based science and technology park being developed by the City of Blue Springs and the university. The project will support public research organizations, private businesses, and other research-related organizations establishing business clusters that focus on commercializing technological innovations. Initial seed capital is provided by the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation, the City of Blue Springs and Kansas City Power & Light. Tenants are expected to move into the research park within the next five to 10 years, reports the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Plans for a 350-acre biomedical research campus in Kansas City were unveiled last month by Oxford Redevelopment Company. The proposed development, which is called Oxford on the Blue, is part of an overall concept encompassing about 3 million sq. ft and will include a village-style residential area for scientists and researchers, reports The Kansas City Star. The project is being financed by James Stowers III, whose parents established the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
Officials broke ground in December on Alabama’s new Robotics Technology Park. The park is a collaborative effort of the state, the two-year college system, Alabama Industrial Development Training, and robotics industry leaders. Plans include three buildings on 53 acres across from Calhoun’s Decatur campus. This includes: the Robotic Maintenance Training Center, which will house an industry training program; the Advanced Technology Research Development Center, featuring a test facility for companies currently in the robotics manufacturing industry; and, the Integration and Entrepreneurial Center, a collaborative consolidation of technology involving higher education and industry. The three buildings and robotics equipment represent a $ 71 million investment.
Groundbreaking for Riverside Research Park, which will house 330,000 sq. ft. of offices and laboratories for the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, took place in November, reports The Associated Press. The facility, located in Frederick, MD, will house the Advanced Technology Partnerships Initiative and will have expansion capacity for another 47,000 sq. ft. reserved for life science and advanced technology partner organizations.
A second phase of BWI Technology Park featuring 260,000 sq. ft for flex/research and development and office and retail space was announced in November. The plan calls for development of four buildings on land previously used as a tire reclamation site.
Greater Johnstown Tech Park in Johnstown, PA, opened in October as the city’s first certified green building. The property features a state-of-the-art campus for emerging and established companies in healthcare, information technology, bioscience, defense and finance. Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems and technology businesses and MTS Technologies, Inc. occupy a combined 50,000 sq. ft. within the tech park.
Designed as a green technology R&D business park, CoreTech Park, will house more than 100 advanced technology companies across 250 acres in Lebanon, TN. The first phase will include development of approximately 50 acres with an initial investment of $ 50 million to $ 60 million, according to an article in The Wilson Post.
A commercial aerospace business and research park located south of Las Cruces International Airport is in the works following approval from the Las Cruces City Council. The council adopted a resolution last week identifying 182 acres of undeveloped land for the research park, reports the Las Cruces Sun-News. Development of the park hinges on approval of $ 3 million in state funding, which currently is being debated in the New Mexico Legislature.
Groundbreaking for the Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park located at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, UT took place last October. The 550-acre property was acquired through an Enhanced Use Lease contract, in which private sector entities competitively bid for underutilized real estate assets on Army and Department of Defense Installations. Occupancy of the initial phase is expected in 2010.
Preliminary plans for a $ 35.5 billion technology park at the Flagship Enterprise Center in Anderson, IN were released earlier this month, reports The Herald Bulletin. Current plans include three buildings housing businesses that focus on green technology, energy storage, and lithium batteries and electric and hybrid vehicle parts. Officials are seeking federal funds for a fourth building for post-incubator companies that graduate from the Flagship, according to the article.
Upcoming Events on Research Parks
The Association of University Research Parks will hold its BioParks 2009 conference May 15-16 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta. This year’s theme is The Infrastructure of Innovation. More information is available at: http://aurp.net/bioparks2009/index.cfm.
The International Association of Science Parks will hold its 26th annual World Conference in Raleigh, NC, June 1-4. This year’s theme is Future Knowledge Ecosystems. More information is available at: http://www.iasp2009rtp.com/.return to the top of the page
SBA Releases Small Business Profiles for Each State
The SBA’s Office of Advocacy has produced its 2008 Small Business Profiles for every U.S. state, which assembles from a variety of sources the most recently available data across a number of topics.
For example, the quarterly impact of firm openings, expansions,
contractions, and closings on the number of establishments and
employment in 2007 is provided. Also for 2007, demographic
information on each state’s workforce, bankruptcies, bank
branches, and value of business loans is available. Other features,
such as the breakdown of the number of firms and level of employment
across different industry categories in 2006, and the net job
change by firm size from 2002 to 2005, comes from the U.S. Census
The profiles, which are published in various forms back to 1995, are available at:
TBED People and Organizations
Lonnie Emard has been named interim director of the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management, a recently formed collaboration of business, academic and economic development organizations intended to build information technology (IT) opportunities in South Carolina.
Boise State University has tapped Mary Givens as director of the newly formed Office of Technology Transfer within the university's Division of Research.
G.P. “Bud” Peterson, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, was named the eleventh president of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn named a former aide, Warren Ribley, as director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire named former Microsoft Corp. Executive A. Rogers Weed IV as state commerce secretary. The governor also is seeking to reconstitute the agency Weed will head, currently the Department of Community Trade and Economic Development, as the state Department of Commerce. The measure, HB2242, is awaiting a floor vote in the house.return to the top of the page
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