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Suggested Citation:"3. Clarifying Study Objectives." National Research Council. 2004. An Assessment of the Small Business Innovation Research Program: Project Methodology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11097.

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3. Clarifying Study Objectives Three primary documents condition and define the objectives for this study: These are the Legislation—H.R. 5667 [Annex A], the NAS contracts accepted by the five agencies [Annex B], and the NAS-Agencies Memorandum of Understanding [Annex C]. Based on these three documents, the team’s first task is to develop a comprehensive and agreed set of practical objectives that can be reviewed and ultimately approved by the Committee. The Legislation charges the NRC to “conduct a comprehensive study of how the SBIR program has stimulated technological innovation and used small businesses to meet Federal research and development needs.” H.R. 5667 includes a range of questions [see Annex A]. According to the legislation, the study should: a) review the quality of SBIR research; b) review the SBIR program’s value to the agency’s mission; c) assess the extent to which SBIR projects achieve some measure of commercialization; d) evaluate economic and non-economic benefits; e) analyze trends in agency R&D support for small business since 1983; f) analyze—for SBIR Phase II awardees—the incidence of follow-on contracts (procurement or non-SBIR Federal R&D) g) perform additional analysis as required to consider specific recommendations on: o measuring outcomes for agency strategy and performance; o possibly opening Phase II SBIR competitions to all qualifying small businesses (not just SBIR Phase I winners); o recouping SBIR funds when companies are sold to foreign purchasers and large companies; o increasing Federal procurement of technologies produced by small business; o improving the SBIR program. Items under (g) are questions raised by the Congress that will be considered along with other areas of possible recommendation once the data analysis is complete. The NAS proposal accepted by the agencies on a contractual basis adds a specific focus on commercialization following awards, and “broader policy issues associated with public-private collaborations for technology development and government support for high technology innovation, including bench-marking of foreign programs to encourage small business development.” The proposal includes SBIR’s contribution to economic growth and technology development in the context of the economic and non-economic benefits listed in the legislation. SBIR does seek to meet a number of distinctly different objectives with a single program, and there is no clear guidance from Congress about their relative importance. The methodology developed to date assumes that each of the key objectives must be assessed separately, that it will be possible to draw some conclusions about each of the primary objectives, and that it will be possible to draw some comparisons between those assessments. Balancing these different objectives by weighing the Committee assessment is a matter for Congress to decide. At the core of the study is the need to determine how far the SBIR program has evolved from merely requiring more mission agency R&D to be purchased from small firms to an investment in new product innovation that might or might not be purchased later by the agency. 11

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In response to a Congressional mandate, the National Research Council conducted a review of the SBIR program at the five federal agencies with SBIR programs with budgets in excess of $100 million (DOD, NIH, NASA, DOE, and NSF). The project was designed to answer questions of program operation and effectiveness, including the quality of the research projects being conducted under the SBIR program, the commercialization of the research, and the program's contribution to accomplishing agency missions. This report describes the proposed methodology for the project, identifying how the following tasks will be carried out: 1) collecting and analyzing agency databases and studies; 2) surveying firms and agencies; 3) conducting case studies organized around a common template; and 4) reviewing and analyzing survey and case study results and program accomplishments. Given the heterogeneity of goals and procedures across the five agencies involved, a broad spectrum of evaluative approaches is recommended.

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