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America COMPETES Act Seeks to Extend SBIR/STTR, Support Small Manufacturers

  • America COMPETES Act of 2022 aims to improve American innovation and make the nation more competitive
  • Several parts of the bill aim to support small businesses, including a five-year expansion of the SBIR/STTR program and provisions to support small manufacturers
  • The Senate passed a similar law last summer, and Congress is expected to work out a final piece of legislation to send to the White House

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

A bill that recently passed the House of Representatives with the intent of supporting innovation and improving the competitiveness of American businesses has a number of provisions designed to support small businesses.

The America COMPETES Act of 2022 passed the chamber last week in a 222-210 vote. The split was mostly along partisan lines. Democrats said the legislation will foster innovative developments, strengthen the United States economy, and make the nation more competitive against China. Republicans said it doesn’t go far enough in improving competition while also questioning several provisions for causes like clean energy development, which lawmakers said could worsen inflation.

Major investments provided in the legislation include $160 billion for scientific research and innovation, $52 billion to strengthen domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and $45 billion toward making supply chains more resilient.

One key provision of the House bill is an extension of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer programs (STTR) programs and related pilots. These programs have been in place for 40 years, but are currently set to expire on Sept. 30.

Eleven agencies participate in the SBIR/STTR programs, which make competitive awards to small firms whose scientific proposals align with the agency’s research needs. The programs also help bring the technologies from the laboratory stage to the market or implementation in a government program or system.

Other components of the legislation include:

  • Expanding the National Laboratories’ Small Business Vouchers program to include vouchers for skills training and workforce development
  • Strengthening and expanding a variety of apprenticeship programs
  • The prioritization of small and medium-sized manufacturers during the leverage of mechanisms to provide supply chain solutions in collaboration with Manufacturing USA institutes and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Establishing a national database to help small manufacturers and to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing supply chain
  • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to consider small and medium-sized manufacturers when creating partnerships and cooperative agreements for its supply chain flexibility manufacturing pilot for the Strategic National Stockpile
  • Requiring the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize American small businesses when purchasing uniforms and related gear, and only purchasing items from businesses that pass through foreign-made goods when domestic manufacturers do not meet the necessary criteria
  • Creating a set-aside for small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas within the Solar Component Manufacturing Supply Chain Assistance program
  • Updating a quadrennial science and technology review to include recommendations for policies to ensure a level playing field for small and medium-sized businesses
  • Ordering the Small Business Administration to maintain a resource guide to help small businesses specializing in child care start and grow, with the goal of improving access to child care and strengthening the American workforce
  • Directing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to promote evidence-based policies and controls that small entities, including small businesses, can use to improve cybersecurity
  • Requiring the Commerce Department to issue an annual report on the barriers small businesses face in implementing cybersecurity policies and controls
  • Allowing recreational cannabis businesses to access the banking system and reduce the amount of cash they must keep on the premises

The Senate previously passed a bill with a similar intent in June, winning broader bipartisan support as 19 Republican senators joined Democrats in supporting it. The two chambers are expected to work out the differences between the measures to create a final piece of legislation to send to the White House.

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