WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reintroduced legislation to enhance commercialization services for federally funded research and development. The Research Advancing to Market Production (RAMP) for Innovators Act would support American innovators by expediting application processes for two federal small business programs, improving technical and business assistance, and making small businesses eligible for fast-tracked U.S. Patent Office services. A companion bill was introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Troy Balderson (R-Ohio).

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology (STTR) programs, often called America’s Seed Fund, are two of the premier federal programs for fostering innovation in the U.S. Coordinated by the Small Business Administration, the SBIR and STTR 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 the SBIR and STTR programs to further increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federally funded R&D.

The Research Advancing to Market Production (RAMP) for Innovators Act would:

  • Improve the SBIR/STTR application peer review process to include commercialization potential in addition to scientific and technical merit;
  • Increase the speed at which Federal Agencies make SBIR and STTR awards;
  • Designate a new Technology Commercialization Official in each Agency to help SBIR awardees commercialize;
  • Improve the flexibility of technical and business assistance for SBIR/STTR awardees;
  • 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.

“Small businesses are America’s engine of innovation, and with support in bringing their ideas to market, these startups can drive job growth and strengthen our economic security,” said Senator Coons. “Helping startups access financial support and business advice means that they can focus on turning promising technology into innovative products that increase the prosperity and security of our nation. I’m proud to partner again with Senator Rubio to help innovative small manufacturers bring their technologies to the market.”

“The pandemic highlighted America’s supply chain vulnerabilities and our overreliance on countries like China,” said Senator Rubio. “It is more important than ever that we harness the strength and ingenuity of small businesses across the country to scale up our domestic manufacturing and innovation. This legislation would help startups and other small business innovators access federal research and development dollars, protect their intellectual property, and commercialize.”

“Especially as we continue to recover from the devastating effects of the global pandemic, I cannot overstate the importance of supporting our small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Representative Houlahan. “As a former engineer and entrepreneur, I’m thrilled to be part of this bipartisan, bicameral effort with Senators Coons and Rubio and co-leading this legislation with Representative Balderson in the House. The fact of the matter is this: too many businesses fail because they lack access to capital or they face IP protection challenges. We have to do more to support our talented entrepreneurs in translating their ideas into marketable products and cutting edge technology. Pennsylvania is home to a number of successful startups, and this legislation will help them and our next generation of innovators.”

“America’s tech entrepreneurs continue to play a leading role in job creation across Central Ohio and the country,” said Representative Balderson. “At this critical moment, the RAMP for Innovators Act will ensure those lacking necessary resources to bring new concepts to market have the resources they need.”

The bill has been endorsed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Small Business Technology Council of the National Small Business Association, the University City Science Center, and the Delaware Small Business Development Center.

“ITIF supports RAMP for Innovators, the Research Advancing to Market Production for Innovators Act, which will further bolster the commercialization potential of SBIR/STTR programs through improvements such as making commercialization potential a stronger consideration in project selection, clarifying that all awardees may use a share of Phase I and II funds for commercially oriented activities, and supporting the ability of innovators to secure intellectual property rights underpinning their inventions through stronger linkages with the PTO,” said Dr. Rob Atkinson, President of ITIF.

“We are pleased to endorse Senator Coons’ RAMP bill. We are especially pleased with the section creating a Technology Commercialization Official and the patent assistance provisions,” said Robert Schmidt, Co-Chair of the Small Business Technology Council of the National Small Business Association.

“Delaware SBDC is pleased to endorse the new SBIR Commercialization Bill, the Research Advancing to Market Production for Innovators Act. There are significant improvements to help entrepreneurs move innovation to commercialization,” said Mike Bowman, Director of Delaware Small Business Development Center.

“Several aspects of this bill, including allowing patent expenses and providing business assistance, are commendable as they would pave the way for start-ups to mature and commercialize their innovative technologies,” said Sridhar Kota, Founder and CEO of FlexSys Inc.   

Bill text is available here. Additional letters of support are available from Small Business Technology Council and BPC Action