Houlahan, Balderson Lead Bipartisan Effort to Bolster Grants To Spark Small Business Innovation

August 6, 2019 by Sean Trambley

Freshman Representative Chrissy Houlahan, D-Penn., was joined by Representative Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, to introduce bipartisan and bicameral legislation to enhance commercialization services for federally funded research and development. 

Introduced in the House on July 18, H.R. 3839, the Research Advancing to Market Production (RAMP) for Innovators Act, would support American innovators by expediting Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology application processes, improving technical and business assistance, and making small businesses eligible for fast-tracked U.S. Patent Office services. 

The SBIR and STTR programs, often called America’s Seed Fund, are two of the premier federal programs for fostering innovation in the country. Coordinated by the Small Business Administration, the programs include 11 federal agencies that competitively fund small U.S. businesses to meet federal research and development needs. 

For many of these U.S. businesses, translating investments into marketable products and services remains a challenge. This bill builds on the success of existing programs to further increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federally funded R&D. 

Specifically, the legislation would improve the programs’ application peer review process to include commercialization potential in addition to scientific and technical merit and increase the speed at which Federal Agencies make SBIR and STTR awards.

It would designate a new Technology Commercialization Official in each Agency to help SBIR awardees commercialize, while improving the flexibility of technical and business assistance for program awardees.

Lastly, the bill would establish an annual commercialization impact assessment at each agency to monitor the program’s successes and develop an interagency agreement between SBA and the U.S. Patent Office to help SBIR/STTR companies with intellectual property protection.

“As a former engineer and entrepreneur, and a member of the Small Business Committee, I know how urgent this legislation is,” said Rep. Houlahan. “We have to support our talented entrepreneurs in translating their innovative ideas into marketable products and cutting edge technology – too many endeavors fail because they lack access to capital or they face IP protection challenges. Pennsylvania is home to a number of successful startups, which began with an idea and have turned into products Americans use every day. I’m proud to work with Senators Coons and Rubio on this bipartisan legislation that supports our entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

“As job creation engines, startups are vital to the American economy but often lack the resources to bring good ideas to market,” said Rep. Balderson, a member of the House Small Business Committee. “The RAMP Act is a resourceful way to bridge that gap and foster American innovation, strengthening our position in the global economy.”

Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Chris Coons, D-Del., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“Startups are vital to job creation in the United States, but those companies need support to overcome market challenges and scale up manufacturing in America,” said Senator Coons. “This bill will help American scientists and engineers protect the intellectual property of their pioneering technologies and form new companies that grow the economy. I’m proud to work with Sen. Rubio to continue helping U.S. manufacturers across the ‘valley of death’ and into successful market production.”

“It is critical that we harness small business ingenuity in advanced industrial industries by boosting firms’ ability to commercialize their technology,” said Senator Rubio. “We are in a geopolitical competition with foreign nations like China and in order to compete we must ensure that small businesses have optimal opportunities to innovate and contribute to the global economy. It is in our national interest to make policy decisions that will strengthen American innovation and increase commercialization through the SBIR and STTR programs. I appreciate working with Senator Coons on this important legislation to help high-growth firms receive the support they need as we continue our work to comprehensively reauthorize the Small Business Act.”

Text of the legislation can be found here.


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