Dear SBIR Insider,
Much has transpired since our last issue. Musical chairs on the Hill will bring about new small business leadership in the Senate. Many changes at the SBA include a new Administrator (will require Senate confirmation), and a new Associate Administrator for the Office of Investment and Innovation (the overseer of SBIR/STTR), and several important SBIR policy directive changes.
There are also changes (hopefully improvements) for the SBIR Insider and the SBIR Gateway website. We'll discuss those at the end of this publication.
In this issue:
Changes in the Senate to Bring New Leadership for Small Business
In the next few weeks Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) will step down as Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBE) to become Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. This is a major step up for Senator Landrieu, who is owed a debt of gratitude by the SBIR community (see SBIR Person of the Year 2011 www.zyn.com/sbir/articles/11poy.htm ). It's worth the read.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a long time member of the SBE, and no stranger to small business, will step up and become the new SBE chair. Like Landrieu, Ms. Cantwell is a strong independent woman who is not afraid to take the lead for a cause she deeply believes in. She has been an SBIR supporter in a quiet manner, preferring to work behind the scenes.
When Senator (now Secretary of State) John Kerry (D-MA) left the chair position of the SBE to become chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations, most of the SBIR community held its breath, because his successor, Senator Landrieu was an unknown quantity to much of the SBIR arena. As it turned out, Landrieu was one of the best ever!
I'm sure Senator Cantwell knows she has big shoes to fill, but she has the ability and the tools to do the job. We wish Senator Maria Cantwell the best in her new role.
Staffer Support: One common denominator during the Kerry and Landrieu years on the SBE was the incredible work and dedication of staffer extraordinaire Ms. Kevin Wheeler. The incredible number of superlatives earned by Ms. Wheeler for her work in SBIR would sound disingenuous, but would be accurate. That's how important her contributions have been in keeping the SBIR program sound and successful.
Wheeler worked diligently with small businesses from all over the country, as well as with state entities, federal agencies and universities. In addition, she worked closely with her boss's constituents. During the Kerry years Wheeler worked with hundreds of Massachusetts small businesses (she knew most of them by name), and during the Landrieu years, did the same for Louisiana companies. Over the years Wheeler garnered many awards for her work in small business and SBIR. In 2008 Kevin Wheeler was named the SBIR Person of the Year (see www.zyn.com/sbir/articles/08poy.htm ).
It is unknown at this time what changes Senator Cantwell may make to the SBE staff. The incoming chair has the right to select their own staff. One thing history has shown us, Kevin Wheeler gives her "all" to the job she's hired to do, and to the people who hired her to do it. Her success in serving the committee and small businesses, especially under two such different types of leaders as Kerry and Landrieu, demonstrates what a versatile asset she is to the committee, her Senator(s), their staff, and small business programs serving the nation.
SBA Issues New & Important SBIR/STTR Policy Directive Changes
On January 8, 2014 the SBA issued amendments to their August 6, 2012 SBIR and STTR Policy Directives (PD). The PDs provide rules and governance for these programs, and are also intended to provide clarity for complex issues. Some of these new amendments address issues brought about by the original public commenting phase from the August 2012 PD release, while other changes were merely technical corrections/cleanup. The SBA published the notice of changes in the Federal Register on January 8, and it is available at https://federalregister.gov/a/2013-31374 Interestingly enough, it is not currently available or even mentioned on SBA's "official" SBIR government web site (see sbir.gov).
No One Stop Shop - The idea of a one-stop-shop web site is "wishful thinking" but not reality. For anything on the web you should have multiple sources, and SBIR is no exception! In fact, sbir.gov is anything but a one-stop-shop, and it needs to do better than it is doing. At the time of this Insider (February 2, 2014) there is not even a mention of the PD changes nor a link to the Federal Register announcement. In fact, the last news items they show on the main page is dated October 17, 2013. Your SBIR Insider is a big supporter of SBA, the Office of Technology, and many of the people who work there. They may have received the resources needed to get sbir.gov off the ground, but obviously not enough resources to maintain and update the site as needed. We will have more on the SBA later in this edition.
Keeping with the notion of "no one stop shop," our SBIR Gateway web site is an additional free resource available to you. We have created a special Policy Directive tool to let you see the changes SBA recently made, and compare the new language to the old (see www.zyn.com/sbir/PD/SB12/ ). We have also added a feature to allow you to receive an email notification when a new SBIR/STTR solicitation is released (see www.zyn.com/sbir/scomp.htm )
Some of the PD changes of note are listed below with links to our policy directive tool. Once SBA publishes the total PDs (both SBIR and STTR), we will include them in our PD tool for you.
Sec. 4(a)(3) Agency benchmarks for progress towards commercialization: See www.zyn.com/sbir/PD/SB12/pd12af-04.htm to read the language, and click on the "view changes" button to see the changes.
Sec. 4(b) Phase II (same link as above)
Sec. 6(a) Eligibility Requirements See http://www.zyn.com/sbir/PD/SB12/pd12af-06.htm
Sec. 7(d) Essentially Equivalent Work See http://www.zyn.com/sbir/PD/SB12/pd12af-07.htm
Sec. 7(h) Periods of Performance and Extensions - See the link above
Sec. 8(a) Proprietary Information Contained in Proposals. - See http://www.zyn.com/sbir/PD/SB12/pd12af-08.htm
Sec. 8(d) Continued Use of Government Equipment. - See above link
In the next issue we will discuss the ramifications of these changes.
Changes in SBA Leadership, and/or Changes to the SBA
Back in January of 2012 President Obama elevated the position of the SBA Administrator to cabinet level, but he was very deliberate in saying it was a "temporary" measure. Shortly thereafter the President asked for authority to combine/consolidate six federal agencies and departments in to one agency, including Commerce, SBA, and the U.S. Trade Representative's office. To date, this hasn't happened.
On the other side of the aisle, in December of 2013 Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced S. 1836, the "Department of Commerce and the Workforce Consolidation Act" that also did away with the SBA as a stand-alone agency. That bill has gone nowhere, but there appears to be bipartisan support in considering some sort of agency consolidation as a cost saving measure.
Add to this the fact that President Obama waited eleven months after being notified in February of 2013 by his SBA Administrator Karen Mills, that she was leaving the SBA as soon as he could appoint a replacement. By August, with no replacement in sight, Mills stepped down and suggested/appointed Jeanne Hulit to be acting Administrator of the SBA.
Ms. Hulit announced that she is resigning as acting Administrator of the SBA in mid-February to become president of Northeast Bankcorp's Northeast Community Banking Division, headquartered in Lewiston, Maine.
In the last few days the President has finally nominated Maria Contreras-Sweet to be the next Administrator of the SBA. Ms. Contreras-Sweet is yet to be confirmed by the Senate, and as of this date there are no confirmation hearings set. If Contreras-Sweet doesn't get confirmed before Hulit leaves, another "acting" administrator must be named.
Lloyd Chapman of the American Small Business League (ASBL.com), was one of the first to sharply criticize the President's consolidation plan as being anti-small business. Chapman believes the President and his administration want the SBA gone. Others have jumped on to the Chapman bandwagon believing the President's protracted action in nominating a replacement SBA administrator, demonstrates the administration's lack of support for small businesses. Similar criticisms have been levied upon Senator Burr's S. 1836 bill. To date, Burr's bill has the support of Senators Daniel Coats, [R-IN] and James Inhofe [R-OK].
The nation and our small businesses need an independent strong SBA. In the real world of politics and government, where $$$ play a major role in greasing the skids of Congress, small business can't compete with large private industry and universities when it comes to the life blood of congressional/political fund raising. It is this environment that led the late great Milt Stewart (aka Mr. Small Business) to coin the phrase about Congress as it relates to small business: "In public they'll hug em, in private they'll mug em."
Changes in SBA Leadership that Directly Affect SBIR/STTR
Javier Saade has been named SBA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Investment and Innovation (OII) and is part of the SBA's senior leadership team. The OII is the office that oversees the SBA's Office of Technology that provides guidance to the federal agencies having SBIR and STTR programs.
Doing a little background check on Mr. Saade we see a vibrant, well qualified and successful person who is constantly in motion, both physically and business wise. Suffice to say, "very impressive." Javier has the opportunity to build on the groundwork laid by former OII chief Sean Greene, who is now an entrepreneur in residence at the Case Foundation. (Hey Sean, does that mean you once had to be an AOL user?)
Mr. Saade has an extensive background including 20 years of global general management, principal investing, strategic consulting and entrepreneurial experience. He also is well versed at utilizing social networking, so don't look for him to be a stick in the mud.
We hope to be able to interview Mr. Saade for you in an upcoming issue.
Pravina Raghavan is now the Deputy Associate Administrator for the SBA's Office of Investment and Innovation, and is working closely with Javier Saade. Ms. Raghaven became the SBA's Director of Technology & Innovation in February of 2013 in the wake of Sean Greene's departure. Raghavan did a splendid job resembling a good balancing act while getting up to speed on the many responsibilities she was charged with. SBIR was a comparatively small role next to all of her other responsibilities. She received very favorable marks from the SBIR community and she continues to stay involved in SBIR.
SBIR Person of the Year 2013 - John Williams
Sometimes exceptional commitment to a cause or program such as SBIR is only known by a few on the inside. Such is the case of Mr. John Williams, director of the Navy's SBIR and STTR programs. His fight to save the National SBIR Conferences was (and still is) of primary importance to the SBIR community.
There are supposed to be two National SBIR Conferences every year but since some government policies changed (no travel, conferences, etc.) and the states could no longer host these conferences, there were no national conferences scheduled for 2013 and beyond. This was a major loss for the SBIR community, especially for new-to-intermediate companies. Also of primary impotence was the role of educating the SBIR community about the new rules and regulations as a result of the extensive SBIR reauthorization.
The challenge of hosting a national conference was enormous under the 2013 environment. The DoD cancelled their annual Beyond Phase II Conference, and the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) also cancelled their national meeting. Williams understood the importance of the National SBIR Conference, especially during this critical time period, and he found a way to beat the odds and make a quality conference happen!
Williams not only coordinated the event, but he led the other agency SBIR program managers in a cooperative effort. However, since no agency would step up to the plate and commit the funds or other resources necessary to hold a conference, Williams found a private sector partner to host and manage the logistics of the conference. The private sector partners were Dr. Matthew Laudon and Ms. Jennifer Rocha of TechConnect World. The 2013 National SBIR Conference in Washington DC was a success. This couldn't have happened without John Williams. Williams wasn't going to rest on his laurels, so immediately after the 2013 conference, he started planning two National SBIR Conferences for 2014.
William's work continues, and the next national conference will be held June 16-18, 2014 in the DC area, in conjunction with TechConnect World and the National Innovation Summit. Details are at nationalinnovationsummit.com/program/National_SBIR_Conference.html
The 2013 Person of the Year article is available at www.zyn.com/sbir/articles/13poy.htm
Changes at DoD's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP)
There are executives behind the scenes that you seldom know or hear about, but are very influential in building, preserving and advocating for programs that effect you. Such is the case with the DoD's Linda B. Oliver, Deputy Director, Policy & Procurement for the DoD's Office of Small Business Programs..
The word on the street is that Ms. Oliver is preparing to retire after a lengthy and dedicated career with the federal government and the DoD in particular. Her roots stem from utilizing her legal background to take her through many avenues of the federal government, from the Navy to the Pentagon, to the Office of Management & Budget, and finally to the DoD's Office of Small Business Programs. Among Ms. Oliver's honors is the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive.
Ms. Oliver is an authority on DoD procurement and small business utilization within the DoD. She often was the "go-to" person to update congress on these issues. Oliver has always been a good friend to SBIR and small business.
Oliver's current boss, Andre Gudger, Director of the DoD's Office of Small Business Programs, will certainly miss her as will the entire OSBP. Gudger is in an interesting position because two of his most senior executives, Joseph Misanin who has recently retired, and Linda Oliver, who has announced her retirement, will leave the OSBP sparse in executive management. Both Oliver and Misanin came to the OSBP with excellent backgrounds from the Navy. Perhaps it was something in the Navy's water.
Linda, we will miss you. Enjoy retirement but please keep in touch.
Changes to the SBIR Insider and the SBIR Gateway
As many of you are aware, I've taken a few months off from the SBIR Insider. The reasons were varied, but due to personal circumstances I had to concentrate on some other issues, and it was my hope that sbir.gov and some other news letters would suffice.
That was not to be the case, and with the loss of PNNL's SBIR Alerting Service, many of you wrote to me for help. So here is my commitment to you, all pro bono, free of advertising and tracking:
1. The SBIR Insider will be published on a frequent and regular basis, resulting in shorter and timelier SBIR news.
2. We will be expanding and modernizing our SBIR.TV site. It will be featuring SBIR podcasts (both audio and video) with news, congressional coverage and interviews with people involved in SBIR and small business issues.
3. We will activate our SBIR Twitter feed in a couple of weeks that will provide some up-to-the-moment notice of SBIR/STTR happenings. I'm not sure many of you are into social media, (I'm not) but our Twitter Feed will be @SBIRinsider. (It may be worth it to see me limited to 140 characters.)
4. We will be revamping the SBIR Gateway web site (www.zyn.com/sbir) to make it more current and comprehensive, including the SBIR topic databases many of you have been using for years. Don't worry, it will still be unattractive but simple.
5. Our SBIR Solicitation Calendar (www.zyn.com/sbir/scomp.htm) includes a new feature where you can receive an email from us when new SBIR/STTR solicitations are released. This is for your convenience, but remember it is "unofficial" and subject to errors. Please read the terms of service when you go to the web page.
6. We will be expanding our SBIR Policy Directive Tool to include the STTR, and any updates that the SBA publishes. (see www.zyn.com/sbir/PD/SB12 )
I hope our new features will be of use to you, but please remember that these are in addition to, not in place of, the SBA's sbir.gov and/or any of the SBIR agencies web sites. They are still the final word concerning their solicitations.
Coming in the Next SBIR Insider
Some universities and their lobbyists are looking to take an additional 22+% out of the STTR award pot for their own means (The Transfer Act, HR 2981); Ramifications of S.1720 - Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013; Update on 2014 National SBIR Spring Conference
In Memoriam - Bertha (Bert) Shindell
On December 26, 2013 my mother, Bertha Shindell passed away at age 96. Much as I love her, I wouldn't be writing about this if there wasn't something of possible significance for you.
Mom married my father Harry back in 1935, not knowing she was marrying a visionary and innovator. When she discovered this aspect of her husband, she came to support and believe in his dreams, in spite of the fact that they seemed… unrealistic at best.
Bert worked much of her life to support her husband and three kids (of which I was one). This helped give her husband the time and space to perfect his developments. In the mean time, her friends would endlessly tell her (the technical term is "hock meir en chinik") to make that crazy man of hers to go out and get a "real job."
Instead my mother continued to believe in her husband, standing by him all the way, in spite of the fact that his innovations were always too far ahead of his time, and consequently were never financially successful. She did not regret her sacrifices for her husband and family.
We have many excellent innovators in our SBIR community, and I hope you have the support of a loving spouse/partner. If you do, I hope you know how lucky you are. It was a wonderful experience for my brothers and I, and my father was a lucky man indeed.
Many of you ask why I give so much of my SBIR efforts to you free of charge. Perhaps that's all they're worth. However, as a young boy I watched my father fail to successfully commercialize his developments, and I watched others steal from him. I don't want that to happen to you or your families. SBIR can often help.
If you're wondering about my dad's crazy ideas, he was one of the first in automotive air conditioning, also incorporating air filtration and air sterilization modules for them (most adults smoked in those days), electronic water purification and sterilization, home air filtration and purification systems, a liquor conditioner that made cheap booze taste like the most expensive brands, and much more.
If you're in the spirit, please consider thinking a good thought or perhaps a prayer for Bertha Shindell. If any of my efforts have been of help to you, Harry and Bertha are the ones to thank. It was their teaching, from the platform of America's greatest generation.
I hope to see you in the next SBIR Insider.
40 Alderwood Dr.
Sequim, WA 98382
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