The SBA recently gave NIH what amounts to a blanket exemption from the award size restrictions that limits SBIR awards to $225,000 for Phase I and $1,500,000 for Phase II. There were nearly 300 topics across 21 institutes that were granted exemptions. Our concern is this could dramatically reduce the number of SBIR awards at NIH to a handful of jumbo size awards. The law as written gives SBA authority to grant agencies waivers for specific topics if the agencies apply for the waiver and meet certain conditions. The intention of the law was always to allow award size flexibility only when it is absolutely essential for fulfilling an agency’s mission, not as a loophole to get around the Phase I and Phase II award size limits, which were designed to keep award sizes low to make sure as many promising technologies as possible received awards.
The SBTC recently sent the following letter to Javier Saade, Associate Administrator of the innovation and investment office at SBA voicing our concerns about this action and asking him for justification for these waivers.