The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program targets small businesses for federal research or research and development funding to develop and commercialize innovative technologies. The Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program, is in the process of amending the provisions of the SBIR policy directive that pertain to small businesses retaining the rights to data they generate in the performance of an SBIR award for not less than 4 years. Because the update to the policy directive has a bearing on the issue of whether laws and policy directives are sufficient to protect SBIR awardees.
Under the SBIR program, small businesses that have been granted awards by federal agencies participating in the SBIR program enter into agreements with these agencies to perform the research work. Specifically, federal agencies with a budget of more than $100 million for extramural research or research and development — which is generally conducted by nonfederal employees — must establish and operate an SBIR program. The Small Business Act prohibits federal agencies from approving any agreement that violates any provision of the law or directives related to data rights.
In 2012, the NDAA required SBA to amend its SBIR policy directive regarding data rights, among other things. The NDAA also mandated that GAO report to Congress on whether (1) federal agencies comply with the data rights protections for SBIR awardees; (2) the laws and policy directives are sufficient to protect the data rights of SBIR awardees; and (3) there is an effective process for tracking and resolving SBIR awardee grievances regarding data rights.