Thursday, May 11, 2017

CATAAlliance Calls for Adaption of the US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

          By Chuck Black

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance), has called for the adaption of the US developed Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program, often used to fund small space focused start-ups, as a way to encourage and grow Canadian innovation.

To see the complete video, please click on the graphic above. Graphic c/o CATAAlliance.

As outlined in the May 8th, 2017 CATAAlliance press release, "A proven model for the creation of Innovative Solutions Canada," the organization cited the intent of the Federal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "provide up to $50 million, starting in 2017–18, to launch a new procurement program, Innovative Solutions Canada, modeled on the very successful US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.”

But the press release also noted that the SBIR program, as structured in the US, is funded through mandatory set-asides of departmental funds. As outlined in the press release, the US Small Business Administration (SBA) ensures that participants in the program dedicate 3.2% of their total budgets towards the SBIR program, plus an additional “set- aside” (approximately 23% in the US) for use to procure any developed goods and services from the SBIR small businesses, as required.

As outlined in the CATAAlliance press release, "the intent now is to ensure our government incorporates BOTH of these into the final legislation," to insure appropriate funding." The press release noted that the Ontario provincial Health Technologies Fund, is also based on the US SBIR model.

As outlined on the Federal Government Buy and Sell procurement website under the title, "Decision to Set Aside a Procurement under the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business," this is a process fully understood by the Federal government, at least within Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), where INAC frequently acts as the first customer and reference site for new products.

NASA Hallmark videos feature companies and successful technologies developed through NASA's SBIR and small business technology transfer (STTR) programs. To see a sampling of the videos, simply click on the links. Image c/o NASA.  

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has always had difficulties wrapping its head around the concept of SBIR programs and the idea of assisting small business to grow and compete with larger, more established firms.

As outlined as far back as the July 19th, 2009 post, "Canadian Space Agency Provides "No Dedicated Programs" to Support Small Aerospace Firms," it was noted that "when compared to organizations like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and others, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has 'no dedicated programs for small business.'"

Instead, and as outlined in a variety of historical articles on this blog, the Canadian government has focused on "capacity building" or building up one or two large domestic firms like Spar Aerospace, Bombardier, Nortel or MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) into powerhouses capable of competing against large foreign firms in international markets.

Of course, mostly that doesn't work. It's hard to pick winners at the best of times. Spar and Nortel are dead and Bombardier and MDA are undergoing their own challenges.

Perhaps the Federal government will try something a little more inclusive this time. Something like the SBIR program.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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