House Committee Expands the Women’s Business Center Program and SBIR Program
Monday, March 28, 2016
WIPP Policy Update
Week of March 28, 2016
House Committee Expands the Women’s Business Center Program and Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)
In a landmark session of the House Small Business Committee, Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), who serve 10 million women entrepreneurs, won a major victory through expansion and modernization of a program that has not been updated in nearly a decade. WBCs provide entrepreneurial training and counseling assistance to women business owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom are located in underserved communities. According to the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), women-owned businesses annually contribute $1.6 trillion to the nation’s economy and are growing at four times the rate of male-owned businesses.
The Developing the Next Generation of Small Businesses Act of 2016 increases funding levels for the program to $21.75 million from the current authorization level of $14.5 million. For individual centers, the maximum grant awards are increased from $150,000 to $185,000 per year and continue to require that centers match their grant awards with private dollars. Also, the bill provides financial flexibility for centers including a hardship waiver for centers that are unable to meet their matching funds goal and scales back auditing and reporting requirements for the non-federal matching funds that exceed the required level.
Last fall, the Senate Committee on Small Business cleared its version of the program update, the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015. Notably, the Senate version and the House version both offer significant funding increases for WBCs and the women entrepreneurs that they serve.
In a move to ensure funding certainty, the Committee updated the Small Business Innovative Research Program (SBIR), which has invested in products such as iRoomba robots and Sonicare toothbrushes. The House Small Business Committee advanced the Commercializing on Small Business Innovation Act of 2016, targeting small firms with innovative products who seek funding through the federal government. During consideration of the bill, the Committee approved the Commercializing Assistance Pilot Program, which would provide additional funding to businesses to assist them with commercializing the technologies developed through these programs. This has been a key element that WIPP members have stated is missing from the program.
The SBIR program partners small businesses with federal agencies to research and develop technologies with commercial applications. These partnerships are designed to culminate with the small business bringing their product, service, or technology to market.
The Commercializing Assistance Pilot Program was developed and offered by House Small Business Committee Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) at the Committee’s March 23rd markup. It makes additional grant money available to firms that have developed a new technology through the program and are attempting to bring that product to market. This additional funding will be competitive, subject to availability and require a 1:1 match with private funding.