SBIR Gateway

SBIR Insider Newsletter
Elections & SBIR
November 11, 2012

Dear SBIR Insider,

Thankfully the election is over (almost). A few seats are yet to be determined. Although many of our readers asked for voting "advice," we didn't feel it was proper for us to "endorse" candidates. That's your decision, but we have, and will continue to tell you about your senators and congressmen as it relates to SBIR and small business. Your interaction with them is vitally important.

In this issue:

The Importance of Congressional Education

With the election behind us, a major educational effort towards the new members of congress must now be launched. This point was stressed several months ago by Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) at an awards ceremony in February where Tonko and several other members of congress were honored by SBTC as "Champions of Small Business Innovation."

Congressman Tonko, admitted to not knowing anything about SBIR when he was first elected to congress in 2008. He credited Dr. James T. Woo of InterScience, Inc. in Troy NY, a small SBIR business in his district, with aquatinting him with the program.

As a former engineer and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Tonko immediately saw the value in SBIR and became an important supporter and champion of the program. He readily admitted that without Dr. Woo's and others efforts to educate him and congress, SBIR would not continue to grow the support needed to keep the SBIR program strong.

Organizations such as the SBTC and SBBC hold meetings and "fly ins" to help small business communicate more effectively with their senators and congressmen. Of course, you can do this on your own, but you should stay informed of the issues to be addressed. Invite them to visit your company!

The Changing Complexion of the Senate

Although it was thought a few months ago that the republicans may very well take over control of the senate, there were several surprises in the campaigns resulting in the democrats actually picking up a senate seat for a 53 to 45 advantage (plus 2 independents).

Don't let the net gain of 1 seat fool you. There are actually 12 new members of the senate, all needing to be educated about SBIR! They are: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Joe. Donnelly (D-IN), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jeff. Flake (R-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi. Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Some of these folk are moving over from the House and are somewhat familiar with SBIR, but several are new to the Hill.

I would like to take a moment to honor one Senator (yes, I will use a capital "S" for her), who is stepping down from a long and illustrious career on the Hill. Senator Olympia Snowe has been involved in supporting SBIR since the beginning, when she was in the House, and her support continued when she moved to the Senate in 1994. Snowe served on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship throughout her Senate career, and was chairman of the committee (2003-2007) and has been the ranking member of the committee since 2007, working in a fair bipartisan manner.

We will cover the House changes in our next issue.

The National SBIR Conference Nov 13-15, Portland, OR

Many of us are geared up for this national conference, which is the first one since SBIR reauthorization. This is not your father's SBIR program anymore, and many issues will be presented and discussed, to help you learn about how to compete, and also offer comments to hopefully help change the program.

The agencies will tell you how they are complying with the new rules, and options/flexibility that the reauthorization law provides. SBA will tell you about their upcoming changes to the policy directive as well as the rules concerning size standard eligibility, due out by the year's end.

You can also have some one-on-one time with SBIR program managers and agency representatives, as well as prime contractors and other potential partners. Of course, the most valuable portion may be that of networking and meeting other companies. The serendipity of life often plays a role and you go home with something of great value.

Complete information is available at I hope to see you there.

To Rant or not Rant

I received a very nice letter from a reader who expressed extreme displeasure with what she referred to as my "continued ranting against the life sciences and the bio industry." It certainly isn't my intent to "rant" about that sector because I highly value those areas and they are very important. If I have given the impression they weren't, I'm sorry.

However, when it comes to the continual misstatements by entities wanting something other than a small business program of the SBIR, and they make misstatements that go unchallenged, then I'll object.

Let's address a divisive issue that is not life sciences and bio related. The issue of what has been called "prop mills." It sounds legit, where we have companies that are very successful in getting SBIR awards, some in the House called them "award hogs."

However, several years ago Ann Eskesen (who knows SBIR stats and companies better than any single individual) was asked about the "mills" in a House hearing. She tried to answer that the "prop mills" really didn't exist but was immediately and unceremoniously dismissed, and not allowed to finish her statement.

Several years later in a Senate hearing, Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) posed the question about the mills and multiple awards to Dr. Charles Wessner of the National Academies, who led the most comprehensive study ever done on SBIR. A similar question about multiple awards was asked of Dr. Irwin Jacobs, cofounder of Qualcomm. the most successful SBIR company of all time, The 5 minute dialog is very interesting and informative. We have it for you at: You need to see this if you want the truth. Also please note that Dr. Wessner authored a paper, "The myth of the Mills."

SBA Office of Advocacy is Active in Supporting SBIR

The SBA's Office of Advocacy is an independent entity within our federal government to advocate for the rights of small business. Its connection to SBIR goes back to the beginning of the program, and the office's first chief counsel, Milton Stewart (aka Mr. Small Business), who was assisted by a young attorney named Jere Glover were both instrumental in getting Roland Tibbetts' SBIR vision shepherded through congress.

Several years later, barrister Glover was selected by President Clinton to be the Chief Counsel and he remained in that position for 7 years. During Stewart's and Glover's tenure, SBIR was very much a part of the Office of Advocacy.

After the Clinton administration, the Office of Advocacy became mostly silent on SBIR issues until President Obama selected Dr. Winslow Sargeant to be Chief Counsel. Dr. Sargeant, a former small business owner, multiple SBIR award winner, NSF SBIR program manager, and later, a partner in a Wisconsin VC and investment firm, has served in the role of Chief Counsel since August of 2010.

On September 19, 2012 the Office of Advocacy sponsored a conference in Seattle, "Small Business and Government: Maximizing Entrepreneurship, Driving Innovation." The attendees included several SBA regional folks who were also getting an education from the small business and university participants. Although this was not an "SBIR" conference, SBIR was not a minor part of the program and interest by the attendees drove quite a bit of SBIR discussion.

I just heard from Jennifer Clark, the Regional Advocate from the SBA's Region X, that there were more than 3,000 on-line participants for this meeting. It suggests there will be more, and we hope to help make you aware of them in the future.

Large R&D Companies' Budget Cuts Present Opportunities

Your SBIR Insider was invited to speak at last week's 2012 Collaborative Innovation Conference in Tacoma, WA (thank you to William Mounts Director, NW Advanced Technology Cluster).

At this conference I spoke with William Lyons, Director, Strategic R&D, Boeing Research & Technology, and he told me that with all the impeding cut backs, Boeing is looking for partners in their R&D rather than trying to do it all from their intramural R&D resources. Although at this stage Boeing is looking at the university and non-profits for this help, it does present an opportunity for small businesses IF they can convince Boeing that they are top notch performers.

In a related matter, last week I received a call from SBIR pioneer Ann Eskesen of the Innovation Development Institute in Swampscott, MA. Ms. Eskesen is well known in the innovative R&D sector, and in addition to her many years of SBIR advocacy, her company is a resource to large and intermediate firms seeking savvy SBIR companies as a collaborative resource.

Nobody I've encountered knows the technical assets of the small businesses in the SBIR community better than Ann. Many of these large companies look to her for guidance on providing information to them about the most relevant SBIR Awardees to meet their business requirements.

No, this is not an endorsement or an advertisement, but as an SBIR advocate I would suggest if you receive an email from [email protected] I would encourage you to look at it. They are not trying to sell you anything, it's not going to cost you anything, and it may provide an excellent opportunity for your company. You can find out more at

Les Bowen, an SBIR Leader and Great Gentleman, Rest in Peace

Leslie J. (Les) Bowen a great advocate and dear gentleman to the SBIR community passed away November 4, 2012 of pancreatic cancer. His state of Massachusetts led the way in performing SBIR outreach and education to their Senators and Congressmen, and Les Bowen's efforts were paramount in that effort.

Les was always supportive and eager to help, even though his plate was full between his company and his family. Knowing he had a terminal illness, but not letting any of us know, he resigned his position on the SBTC board, and said to all of us who participated in SBIR reauthorization:

"It has been a great honor to be able to work with you all through this reauthorization. Who could have imagined it would have become so complicated!

I say, keep life simple and go boating more often."

Rest in peace Les, it was our privilege to know you and work with you.

Closing Thoughts

That's all for now. I suspect we'll have a lot more for you after the Portland conference.



Rick Shindell
SBIR Gateway
Zyn Systems
40 Alderwood Dr.
Sequim, WA 98382
[email protected]

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