(U.S. Senate Press Release, March 17, 2021)
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to improve underserved states’ ability to successfully compete for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards.
The FAST Fix Act will reform the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program to encourage federal research and development grants to be awarded to small businesses and universities in states that have historically lacked SBIR and STTR awards. If enacted, this bill would encourage more awards to commercialize ideas, compete in the global marketplace, and create local jobs. The FAST Fix Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
“The FAST Partnership Program is not sufficiently focused to reach the underserved states it’s intended to benefit,” said Senator Risch. “The FAST Fix Act will make commonsense changes to the program application process to ensure research and development grants reach states like Idaho to galvanize our continued growth and success.”
“The FAST Partnership Program helps next generation research and development small businesses prevail,” said Senator Crapo. “The FAST Fix Act will bolster competition for FAST grants in rural states like Idaho and encourage more participation in the grant programs to help certain small businesses reach their full potential.”
“Nevada small businesses are the engine of our economy and particularly during this period of economic uncertainty, we must do more to help small businesses access SBIR and STTR award opportunities,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to support this important piece of bipartisan legislation that will open the door for more funding opportunities to Nevada’s hard-to-reach communities to support innovation and job growth. I will continue working in Congress to strengthen economic development in underserved areas of the Silver State.”
“Rural states like North Dakota will benefit from the FAST Fix Act as it aims to give states that have been less likely to receive SBIR and STTR awards a fair shot moving forward,” said Senator Hoeven. “This will help encourage research and development, make us more competitive in the global marketplace and create local jobs in less-populated states like ours. It’s important that we continue to expand economic opportunities and help entrepreneurs and small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“As part of my Innovation State Initiative, I’ve been working to help Nevada’s economy diversify and further develop its cutting-edge industries for the 21st century,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “The FAST Fix Act will help small businesses, startups, and research institutions all over the Silver State get key federal grants to pioneer creative new technologies and approaches.”
“It’s important underserved areas like those in West Virginia are not left behind when it comes to federal grant funding for small businesses and universities,” Senator Capito said. “Investing in our local communities will bring more jobs, and these grants can serve as a catalyst for economic growth. The FAST Fix Act would do away with the one-size-fits-all bureaucratic process, and help SBA better fulfill its mission of serving community employers and workers.”
“States like Louisiana use FAST grants to help small businesses succeed, but the program’s assistance is not reaching communities that rely on these resources to spark innovation. The FAST Fix Act would prioritize applicants in historically underserved areas in Louisiana and elsewhere. I’m proud to partner with Sen. Risch to see this through,” said Senator Kennedy.
“The FAST Partnership Program is intended to aid disadvantaged, research and development focused small businesses. But over the life of the program, Alaska has consistently ranked at the bottom of the list of states getting awards – demonstrating the program is not working for Alaska and other states. The FAST Fix Act implements small but significant changes to the program to improve funding allocation and give higher priority to applicants in historically underperforming, states such as Alaska,” said Senator Murkowski. “Reforming this partnership is an important step toward maximizing the innovation of Alaskans.”
Background: The FAST Partnership Program provides one-year funding to organizations to develop SBIR/STTR outreach and training programs to help facilitate more awards in their state. Special consideration is intended for entities in states that have historically lacked awards. However, under the one-size-fits-all application process, all applicants are equally considered for the FAST program regardless of SBIR/STTR award history. As a result, the program is not penetrating the very states it’s intended to serve.
The FAST Fix Act would increase competition for FAST grants in each state and give priority to applicants located in historically underperforming states to encourage more SBIR/STTR awards are distributed to underserved areas.