seawasp (seawasp) wrote,

[SBIR Suckitude!] Well, the House bill passed...

HR 2965 passed the House, apparently with the floor closed so that anyone with an actual point to make couldn't even speak. This is the SBIR reauthorization bill which will essentially kill off the program; while it CLAIMS to be "reauthorization", it includes two huge poison-pill changes.

1) It opens up the entire program to VC-funded firms. In effect, this means that (A) any firm that can attract VC to begin with will have a tremendous advantage in the SBIR program over those who really NEED the SBIR program (i.e., those who can't attract VC, or prefer not to because they want to maintain control), and (B) that any concept or idea which can't attract VC support will have a drastically lower chance of being supported. This runs DIRECTLY COUNTER to the basic goal of the original SBIR program, which was to provide support for innovative and potentially useful ideas that might NOT be able to obtain funding from other sources, quite possibly because they're the sort of useful ideas that will have a fairly limited market, though more than enough to maintain a small company, and to support the R&D of ideas which may be useful to the Government but not, directly, easily converted to a civilian use.

2) It drastically increases the size of awards available, from 100k Phase I and 750k Phase II to $250k Phase I and $2 million Phase II. Now, at first glance, you might say "What the heck's your problem? You win and get more money? How's that a problem for you?" The joker in the pack is that there is no provision or intention to multiply the FUNDING OF THE SBIR PROGRAM by a factor of 2.5, but the amount available for the AWARDS is being increased by about 2.5 (or a hair more for Phase IIs). As virtually NO small business (VC funded or not) is going to deliberately apply for significantly LESS money than they can, this will in effect mean that the number of AWARDS will drop by a factor of almost 3. Right now, the average loss/win ratio for SBIR proposals is about 10:1; after this, it will have to become about 30:1 unless for some reason less people submit. My personal loss/win ratio is about 7:1, maybe 5:1; with this, all other things being equal, it'll be 15 to 20 to 1. To get the same number of awards, I'll have to write THREE TIMES as many proposals per year. And THAT is assuming that point (1) above doesn't come round and bite me on the ass.

Now, the SENATE has a much more reasonable SBIR bill. The problem is of course that the two bills are diametrically opposed and the House just shut out the idea of compromise, which indicates a long, very bitter fight ahead... and the program is almost expired as things stand. Neither the House or Senate wants to do another CR (Continuing Resolution) to extend the program for another 6 months, so this puts a LOT of pressure on them to settle things fast. Or, possibly, the entire program crashes under the weight of the argument and is dropped for a year or three.

Those are all really sucky possibilities and could seriously endanger my job, and those of the other people here.
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