Bipartisan bill from Sens. Coons, Gardner supports startup businesses

Bill gives entrepreneurial U.S. scientists and engineers greater flexibility to translate federally-funded research and development into marketable products and services.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) today re-introduced the Support Startup Businesses Act, which would allow awardees of federal research and development grants to use a portion of that funding to create a startup business.  

Specifically, the bill authorizes Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awardees to allocate up to 5 percent of their awards for activities that are critical to building businesses, including services such as market validation, intellectual property protection, market research, and business model development. Currently, the SBIR program offers very limited financial support to awardees for commercialization activities. 

“Startups are the engine of job creation in the U.S., but the rate of startup creation is well below historical norms,” said Senator Coons. “This bill will provide our world-class scientists and engineers with the support they need to translate their cutting-edge research into new startup companies that fuel economic growth. I’m proud to work with Senator Gardner to introduce this bipartisan legislation.” 

“Entrepreneurs face many challenges when it comes to starting and building a viable small business,”said Senator Gardner. “Given that startups are the foundation of our local economies and support nearly all new net job creation throughout the country, it’s essential that we make it easier for them to succeed. The Support Startup Businesses Act will help our entrepreneurs by giving them flexibility with a portion of federal funding to help bring their innovations to market and create jobs.” 

"ITIF applauds Senator Coons and Senator Gardner for their leadership on behalf of America’s innovative scientists and engineers. With this legislation, budding startups getting their start in part through federal R&D funding will be better equipped to tackle the challenging task of turning research discoveries into the successful new businesses that are so vital to economic growth and our nation’s position as a global leader in innovation.  We encourage Congress to enact this bipartisan proposal," said Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, President, ITIF.

“Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is an important program that supports critical research and development by small business, but it falls short of its potential in helping businesses bring their products to market. With the Support Startup Businesses Act, Senators Coons and Gardner attack this shortcoming by broadening SBIR to include funding for commercialization. The bill’s enactment would help expand the opportunity to earn for the millions of small business owners and their employees across the country. Third Way applauds their effort,” said Gabe Horwitz, Vice President for the Economic Program, Third Way.

"We applaud Senators Coons and Gardner for their proposal to improve SBIR by supporting entrepreneurs' efforts to develop their technology and business in tandem," said Dan Berglund, President and CEO of the State Science and Technology Institute. "This change will help make the innovation process more efficient by enabling startups to consider their customers before completing their tech investment, supported by experienced venture development organizations and entrepreneurship centers around the country."

"NCET2 applauds the bipartisan leadership shown by Senator Coons and Senator Gardner on this important bill that provides support for innovative startups commercializing the nation's cutting-edge research. We have the world's greatest scientists and engineers and helping them turn their work into products, services and, most importantly, American jobs, is how the U.S. continues to lead the world in military strength and national GDP within an increasingly competitive international environment," said Tony Stanco, Executive Director, National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer (NCET2). "We support in the strongest terms Congressional efforts to pass the Support Startup Businesses Act.”

“The Support Startup Businesses Act will allow the successful SBIR/STTR programs to become even more impactful for researchers and entrepreneurs alike. I applaud Sens. Coons and Gardner on their efforts to give innovators greater access to the commercialization services they need to move their research out of the lab and into the marketplace,” said Curtis M. Hess, Interim President & CEO of the University City Science Center.

Coordinated by the Small Business Administration, the SBIR program is one of the premier federal programs for fostering innovation.  Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR encourages domestic small businesses to explore their technological potential by engaging in R&D that has the potential for commercialization. 

The Support Startup Businesses Act would:

  • Allow SBIR awardees to use up to 5% of their grants for startup-related commercialization activities.
  • Require annual reporting by awardees on startup-related commercialization activities.

The bill has been endorsed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; State Science & Technology Institute; National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer; Third Way; and, the University City Science Center.


Press Contact

Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov