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Expanding entrepreneurship for everyone

Dr. Todd Haim
Todd HAIM,
Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP)

The NIA Office of Small Business Research (OSBR) team is intrigued by startups and their unique role in research and development. Of course, we’re a bit biased — after all, we lead NIA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) programs, which are designed to help new companies commercialize products and technology to extend the healthy, active years of life.

The OSBR team is pleased to support a diverse range of innovative ideas. To help broaden our reach, we recently produced a factsheet (PDF, 5.3M) that explains how our SBIR/STTR programs can provide significant seed funding to small businesses to address the wide range of topics that fall under the NIA mission. The next big step in our efforts is to help diversify the pool of NIA-supported companies and entrepreneurs so that it more closely resembles the larger U.S. business landscape.

Broadening small-business horizons

According to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, entrepreneurs seeking NIH support are often overwhelmed by the complex steps to complete and submit their applications. Consequently, these barriers discourage potential applicants, including underrepresented individuals, from applying, which only worsens racial and gender-based disparities in small-business grant funding.

While women comprise 51 percent of the overall U.S. population and 46 percent of STEM doctoral graduates, in fiscal year 2019, less than 20 percent of NIH’s new small- business awards went to women-owned small businesses. In addition, while individuals from racial and ethnic minorities make up 36 percent of the overall population and 27 percent of life science doctoral graduates, less than 10 percent of NIH’s new small-business awards were to socially/economically disadvantaged businesses.

Taking action at NIA and across NIH

Several NIH institutes and centers are already tackling the challenges, having implemented new initiatives such as the Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research Program to help recruit underrepresented innovators to small-business grants. In 2017, the NIH Application Assistance Program (AAP) was launched to help new or previously unsuccessful Phase I SBIR/STTR applicants with:

  • Completing the required registrations and electronic submission process
  • Targeted coaching and feedback for new Phase I applicants
  • Market research for completing a Phase I grant
  • 10 weeks of personalized coaching and mentorship

As part of this collaborative effort, the NIA OSBR is working to boost diverse representation within its small-business portfolio. In 2019, we accepted our first cohort of 10 AAP participants. Our second cohort will be selected from applications submitted by April 6, 2020.

Plan now for success in April!

Woman-led, minority-owned, and other underrepresented small businesses that have not yet received a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant and don’t currently have an SBIR/STTR application under review at NIH are eligible and encouraged to apply for the AAP. For those interested in submitting a Phase 1 application for the third AAP cohort, the application period will tentatively open this April and end on September 6, 2020.

We highly encourage innovators from all walks of life to take advantage of this valuable opportunity and apply today! Please contact Stephanie Davis of the NIA OSBR team with questions and comments or leave them below.

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