Request for Information (RFI): Research Supplement to Promote Workforce Diversity in Small Businesses

Notice Number: NOT-OD-17-008

Key Dates
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Response Date: December 16, 2016  

Related Announcements
None    

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Purpose

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) seeks inputs on a proposed new supplement to facilitate participation of women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in small businesses through the SBIR/STTR programs.

Background

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are congressionally-mandated set-aside programs for U.S. small businesses to engage in research and development (R&D) that has a strong potential for commercialization.  The SBIR program is intended to meet the following goals: stimulate technological innovation in the private sector; strengthen the role of small business in meeting Federal research or R&D needs, increase the commercial application of Federally-supported research results; foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.  The STTR program is intended to stimulate a partnership of ideas and technologies between innovative small business concerns and non-profit research institutions through Federally-funded R/R&D.  By providing awards to small businesses for cooperative R/R&D efforts with non-profit research institutions, the STTR program assists the small business and research communities by commercializing innovative technologies.

This Request for Information (RFI) seeks to obtain input on the unique challenges faced by women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to participate in small business concerns and the possibility of creating a new supplement award mechanism specific to the SBIR/STTR programs. 

Request for Information

One of the goals of the SBIR and STTR programs is to encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.  Despite SBIR/STTR awardees being eligible to apply for a diversity supplement, they have very low rates of participation in the program.  The NIH seeks public input to understand the barriers that prevent SBIR/STTR awardees from participating in the existing diversity supplement program and to inform its consideration to develop a new diversity supplement program specific to the SBIR/STTR mechanisms.

For the purpose of this RFI, the NIH is defining socially and economically disadvantaged individuals as the following:

1. Underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.  The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in biomedical research: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans/Alaska Natives who maintain tribal affiliations or community attachment, Hawaiian Natives and natives of the U.S. Pacific Islands.

2. Individuals with disabilities.  Specifically, these are individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.

3. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Specifically, these are (i) individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds.  These thresholds are based on family size, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs.  Or, (ii) individuals who come from a social, cultural, or educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that have demonstrably and recently directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.  Disadvantaged background is most applicable to high school and undergraduate students. 

Your feedback can include comments on, but is not limited to, the following considerations:

  • Modification of the existing supplement award (PA-16-288) to better suit small businesses funded through the SBIR/STTR programs or issuing a separate SBIR/STTR administrative supplement FOA.
  • Inclusion or emphasis on partnerships with community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, other minority-serving institutions, and organizations and groups within institutions of higher education.
  • Career stages that should be eligible for the supplement (i.e. high school students, undergraduate students, baccalaureate and master's degree holders, graduate (predoctoral) and health professional students, individuals in postdoctoral training, and early-stage investigators)
  • Potential restrictions on employment status of awardees. Specifically, a proposed restriction that the supplement awardee must not have been an employee of the small business when the parent award was funded nor supported through an existing grant or contract awarded to the small business.
  • Concerns regarding timing of the supplement award in relation to the duration of the parent award.  Specifically, a proposed condition that at the time of award, the parent award must have support remaining for 1 or more years.
  • Whether the supplement award should be limited to specific SBIR/STTR phases (i.e. phase II only).

Submitting a Response

Responses to this RFI must be submitted to SmallBizDiversity@nih.gov by December 16, 2016, 11:59:59 PM EST.  Please include the Notice number NOT-OD-17-008 in the subject line.

Answers must be sufficiently brief (short paragraph) so that NIH can group same or similar responses.  Essays will NOT be considered.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary.  Please do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information in your response.  The NIH will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder's submission.  The collected information will be reviewed by NIH staff, may appear in reports, and may be shared publicly on an NIH website.  However, any information shared publicly will be de-identified and will not be attributed to any individual.

The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in summaries of the state of the science, and any resultant solicitation(s).  The NIH may use the information gathered by this RFI to inform the development of future funding opportunity announcements.

This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the NIH, or individual NIH Institutes and Centers.  No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government's use of such information.

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

John Sheridan, Ph.D.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Telephone: 301-496-1779
Email: john.sheridan@nih.gov