Getting Down to Business
It took a lot longer than we would have thought but the results have been worth the effort. The deal is signed with the Fortune 100 firm to whose facilities you got us invited.  
Long-time SBIR-involved PA firm


Despite the last letter in the acronym, in the final analysis SBIR has never been about funding 'research' as such. From the outset, the concept of SBIR was grounded in the intent of
  • supporting high-risk, early-stage work not easily funded elsewhere - particularly that undertaken by small firms which were (until SBIR) effectively locked out of access federal dollars
  • giving special consideration to work showing promise of getting to use-condition.
How that latter provision would be achieved has been variously interpreted through the years and by the various parties to the effort.  As the entity that - perhaps more than any other - has consistently tracked the full extent and form of the SBIR business condition, what stands out is the fact that, over the more than 30 years since we achieved passage of the highly controversial SBIR enabling legislation in the face of major and contentious opposition, what is happening in SBIR has mirrored prevailing conditions in the larger economy at the time.

Today's conditions are no different - and are what drives what this firm and this site is fundamentally about.

Open Innovation: large firm collaborations
As major SBIR players and, ultimately the customer for the projects they funded, quite early in the process the program efforts in DOD and, to a lesser extent, NASA attcracted the attention of the Primes.  Perhaps more than any other factor, what defines the modern business condition is the extent to which the closed, vertically structured internally focused systems which has for so long been Across all industry segments and technology arenas, increasing numbers of large and mid-sized firms have instituted some form of External Technology Seeking function. Often at - and/or reporting to - senior management levels, those charged with this responsibility are tasked explicitly to look outside the firm for available technologies, for potential IP placement - in- and out-licensing - and/or for complementary capabilities and skill-sets relevant to addressing current problems and anticipated future needs.A range of intelligence gathering techniques may be employed -- from literature review and online searches to event participation and cultivating professional connection.
  • The forms of relationship to those external sources may range from small-scale technical collaboration at the operational level through quite substantial funded R&D; from (cross-) licensing transactions through equity participation to important, longer-term business collaborations

More recently, a key focus of these efforts has become that of trying to keep a finger on the pulse of development of new and potentially disruptive technologies. These are developments which will likely impact existing market conditions at some level and/or are those which could well represent new market opportunities.

Following the talent: who the technically trained now work for
In the past, these types of external access arrangements have primarily engaged the universities, non-profit R&D facilities, the federal labs and, on occasion, other corporations. However, changes in the labor markets find far more of the technical trained now employed by smaller firms. That critical shift has profoundly changed the dynamics of the tech transfer process.
Of necessity the Tech Seeker must also now confront the fairly serious challenge of following that talent - an often daunting task, given not only the numbers of firms involved but the fact that so many of the firms involved are very small and early-stage and not thereby always readily discernible on the 'usual' radar screens.
        In this context, a number of companies and organizations have evolved to support the Tech Seeker function in various ways. For many Tech Seekers the funneling and sifting device that is the federal SBIR-STTR program has become a particularly useful resource. Involving an important cross-section of the technology-based, small business community, Over the life of the program, SBIR Awardees now total now almost 21,000 firms - some being now well-known firms which are themselves now reaching back into the SBIR community. SBIR program participation serves well

  • to list companies involved, flagging their areas of activity
  • while also enabling some level of competency validation.

       There is also considerable value in the fact that the SBIR-involved firm brings to the table an access to resources in their own right -- federal funding of the high-risk R&D effort and, in many cases, access to downstream contract opportunity. These benefits can serve well to leverage on the internal resources of the Tech Seeker, underwriting some of the risk of working in that space and defraying part of that cost.







Passage of the original SBIR enabling legislation had been highly contentious and very controversial.  With President Reagan's signature affixed, those of us involved at the time shifted quickly from the legislative effort to that of
  • getting out the word about this important, new technology development resource
  • and, with the focus initially on following the money and to ensure compliance by the agencies involved, tracking who was getting what funding from what source for what purpose with what sort of outcomes.
  • Thus were initiated what, with development of the technology and access to a comprehensive range of data sources, have evolved to become far and away the most comprehensive and powerful SBIR-STTR databases enabling
not only highly sophisticated analyses of
  1. Clear evidence that small firms were prolific creators of new technology and, by extension, new jobs at a time when the country was in severe recession, large firms were shedding jobs at an alarming rate and theunemplyment rate was climbing.


 



Across all industry segments and technology arenas, increasing numbers of large and mid-sized firms have instituted some form of External Technology Seeking function. Often at - and/or reporting to - senior management levels, those charged with this responsibility are tasked explicitly to look outside the firm for available technologies, for potential IP placement - in- and out-licensing - and/or for complementary capabilities and skill-sets relevant to addressing current problems and anticipated future needs.
  • A range of intelligence gathering techniques may be employed -- from literature review and online searches to event participation and cultivating professional connection.
  • The forms of relationship to those external sources may range from small-scale technical collaboration at the operational level through quite substantial funded R&D; from (cross-) licensing transactions through equity participation to important, longer-term business collaborations

More recently, a key focus of these efforts has become that of trying to keep a finger on the pulse of development of new and potentially disruptive technologies. These are developments which will likely impact existing market conditions at some level and/or are those which could well represent new market opportunities.

Following the talent: who the technically trained now work for
In the past, these types of external access arrangements have primarily engaged the universities, non-profit R&D facilities, the federal labs and, on occasion, other corporations. However, changes in the labor markets find far more of the technical trained now employed by smaller firms. That critical shift has profoundly changed the dynamics of the tech transfer process.
Of necessity the Tech Seeker must also now confront the fairly serious challenge of following that talent - an often daunting task, given not only the numbers of firms involved but the fact that so many of the firms involved are very small and early-stage and not thereby always readily discernible on the 'usual' radar screens.
        In this context, a number of companies and organizations have evolved to support the Tech Seeker function in various ways. For many Tech Seekers the funneling and sifting device that is the federal SBIR-STTR program has become a particularly useful resource. Involving an important cross-section of the technology-based, small business community, Over the life of the program, SBIR Awardees now total now almost 21,000 firms - some being now well-known firms which are themselves now reaching back into the SBIR community. SBIR program participation serves well

  • to list companies involved, flagging their areas of activity
  • while also enabling some level of competency validation.

       There is also considerable value in the fact that the SBIR-involved firm brings to the table an access to resources in their own right -- federal funding of the high-risk R&D effort and, in many cases, access to downstream contract opportunity. These benefits can serve well to leverage on the internal resources of the Tech Seeker, underwriting some of the risk of working in that space and defraying part of that cost.