SBIR and STTR
Since its enactment in 1982 as part of the Small Business Innovation Development Act, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program has helped thousands of small businesses to compete for federal research and development awards. Their contributions have enhanced the nation's defense, protected our environment, advanced health care, and improved our ability to manage information and manipulate data.
SBIR targets the entrepreneurial sector because that is where innovation thrives. However, the risk and expense of serious research and development efforts are often beyond the means of many small firms. By reserving a specific percentage of federal research and development funds for small business, SBIR protects the business and helps it compete on the same level as larger ones. SBIR funds the critical startup and development stages and encourages the commercialization of a budding technology, product, or service, which, in turn, stimulates the economy.
Created in by the Small Business Research and Development Enhancement Act of 1992, the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) is another important small business technology development program that also expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation R&D arena. Central to the program is expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include joint venture opportunities for small businesses and the nation's network of nonprofit research institutions. Much like SBIR, STTR is a highly competitive program that reserves a specific percentage of federal R&D; funding for awards to small businesses and nonprofit research institution partners.
The risk and expense of conducting sophisticated R&D efforts can be beyond the means of many small businesses, especially those which have just initiated their businesses. Conversely, nonprofit research laboratories are instrumental in developing high-tech innovations, but these organizations frequently confine themselves to theoretical, not practical, applications. But frequently, innovation is confined to the theoretical, not the practical. STTR combines the strengths of both entities by introducing entrepreneurial skills to high-tech research efforts. The technologies and products are then transferred from the laboratory to the marketplace.
Modern communications technology has provided endless opportunities to small businesses. The growth of the telecommunications industry and the advances in the way people communicate with each other in recent history has been nothing less than astonishing.
Because of this rapid advancement, a revolution of sorts for small businesses has occurred as well. Small firms can communicate with potential buyers around the world; family farmers are using wireless technologies to monitor and maximize their crop production; entrepreneurs can launch a website or application from their living room or from just about anywhere; and with the use of the now commonplace smartphone, can accept payments from just about anywhere there is a wireless signal. Most importantly, these new technologies provide the gateway and opportunity for economic growth and job creation.
Small businesses, particularly ones in rural areas, depend on new telecommunications technologies to compete across town and across the world.
A cyber-attack can destroy a small business.
The ever-changing dynamic of information technology is altering small business operations and establishing a highly competitive marketplace in the 21st century. Advances in technology provide several tools to help small firms increase their productivity, efficiency, and overall success. However, the movement of information from paper to digital has resulted in greater opportunities for criminals and cyber threats and the risk of theft and manipulation of sensitive and valuable information has increased significantly. As small business reliance on information technology products and services grows, they face an even greater threat from cyber-attacks. Although many federal agencies provide cybersecurity resources for small businesses, there is a lack of coordination between the various agencies to ensure that small businesses can access these tools to protect and combat cyber-attacks in an efficient and effective manner.
Cybersecurity must remain a priority for Congress. The various federal agencies tasked with providing small businesses with cybersecurity resources must be better coordinated to drive down duplicative resources and processes and more efficiently and effectively support small business cybersecurity efforts. Additionally, it is essential that Congress recognize the evolving threat of cyber-attacks and continue to work with stakeholders to better protect small businesses through greater collaboration, education, and innovation.