Viewpoint: Revamping federal seed funding program will boost US innovation

The Small Business Innovation Research program, which sets aside federal funds for promising early-stage companies, must be strengthened if the U.S. hopes to continue producing massively successful tech giants, argues an op-ed in The Hill.

In the past 35 years, SBIR, which bills itself as "America's Seed Fund," has provided billions of funding dollars to thousands of companies, including Apple, 23andMe and Qualcomm. Despite these undeniable successes, however, to maintain this stellar track record, SBIR must be reformed, Robert Rozansky and Robert Atkinson, PhD, of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation wrote in The Hill.

For one, "the program often funds companies that have no ambition to grow," they wrote, citing the almost 20 percent of SBIR awards that go to companies that have already received 50 or more similar awards — meaning they have remained "early-stage" companies rather than growing and finding other funding sources.

For another, they continued, with repeat companies monopolizing SBIR funds and other venture funding increasingly difficult to obtain, many of the most innovative, deserving startups are unable to receive the funding they need to grow. "Congressional action should refocus SBIR on the most promising growth opportunities," Mr. Rozansky and Dr. Atkinson wrote.

"The United States needs more innovative, growth-oriented small businesses to help solve some of our most pressing national challenges. If SBIR were to truly become 'America's Seed Fund,' more small businesses would be given the chance to create the industries of tomorrow," they concluded.

Read more here.

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