Fostering small business innovation (Sen. Mary Landrieu)

The dreams of America’s entrepreneurs today often become our nation’s innovations tomorrow. Small businesses produce more than 14 times more patents than large businesses and universities and employ nearly 40 percent of America’s scientists and engineers. Their success lends in part to two important Small Business Administration initiatives: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These essential programs are a cost-effective way to ensure that our nation’s most cutting-edge innovations have a chance to move from the lab to the marketplace.

One in four SBIR projects results in the sale of new products or services: from a machine that sorts and inspect bullets at a finer level than the human eye to a needleless patch that delivers drugs through the skin quickly, cost-effectively and painlessly. The bullet sorting technology alone has saved taxpayers more than $300 million and is being used right now to help our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But if we don’t act now, these vital programs will expire—the SBIR and STTR programs sunset on July 31st and September 30th, respectively.  That’s why on Wednesday, I, along with my Ranking Member on the Small Business Committee Senator Olympia Snowe, introduced legislation to reauthorize these programs. This bill strikes a fair compromise on the question of eligibility requirements, allowing some new firms to participate while not changing the nature of these successful programs.  It also ensures that these remain programs for truly small businesses, leveling the playing field for America’s 27 million small businesses.

This bill is an important first step toward what I hope will be a quick reauthorization of these critical programs before the July 31st expiration of SBIR.  At a time when our nation is struggling to dig out of this economic recession, we need the high-paying jobs and ground-breaking innovations that small firms create with the help of SBIR and STTR to ensure that America remains competitive in the global marketplace.