Garton Testifies before Congress on Federal Funding of Research
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives convened a hearing June 16 on taxpayer-supported research leading to commercial technological innovation.
Jilda Garton, vice president for research and general manager of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation, discussed how two federal programs, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), support start-up companies seeking to commercialize intellectual property that results from university research. Garton explained how the SBIR program helped three Atlanta startups – Pindrop, StarMobile and Zyrobotics – turn Georgia Tech research into successful companies.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology is considers reauthorization of two programs. A provision was introduced to increase the set-aside percentage from federally-funded research organizations for these programs, and Garton was called to testify to shed light on the key issues.
Garton was the only witness invited from an institution of higher education. The other witnesses included Pramod Khargonekar, assistant director of the National Science Foundation; Michael Lauer, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health; and Patricia Dehmer, deputy director for Science Programs of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The testimony comes a month after more than 70 scientific and professional societies, higher education associations, universities and research institutions undersigned a letter to the Committee’s chair and ranking member noting that universities support SBIR and STTR programs. However, the institutions are concerned that there is no evidence or proof-of-necessity for increasing the set-aside for these programs. Doing so would reduce crucial research progress and disrupt the universities’ discovery to commercialization ecosystem. With federal research funding on the decline, an increase in a directed percentage to SBIR and STTR programs would yield additional cuts to the research and discovery base which supports innovation at the fundamental level.