Unsolicited Proposals and SBIR

In the U.S., government encourages innovation using the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR).  In Canada, we used to have something similar – the Unsolicited Proposal Program – but now the popular SRED tax credit has supplanted it.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Technology administers the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. Through these two competitive programs, SBA ensures that the nation’s small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part of the federal government’s research and development efforts. Eleven federal departments participate in the SBIR program; five departments participate in the STTR program awarding $2billion to small high-tech businesses. The U.S National Science Foundation administers the SBIR.GOV site on behalf of the federal government.

(Note – In comparison, Canada’s SRED program is a $4Billon program)

See www.sbir.gov for more info.

The SBIR program does have its naysayers. They claim that some companies survive entirely from SBIR funding and they will never sell real products to real customers.

Canada’s Unsolicted Proposals Program

In Canada – in the 70’s, we had the “Unsolicited Proposals Program” whereby companies could submit proposals for funding to various government agencies for projects that government could use.

In 1972, the Government adopted a “Make or Buy” policy for R&D and other S&T programs. In essence, departments were encouraged to contract out such programs by having to justify a decision to do the work “in-house”.  This policy was supplemented by the Unsolicited Proposal program . Through the Science Centre, Supply and Services was the central department for these programs; it advertised policies, developed contracts and published a newsletter which identified contracts and contracting parties.

For example, in the early 1980’s CREO Inc (Burnaby Company sold to Kodak) was funded by a $2.4 million contract under Supply and Service’s Unsolicited Proposals Program. I believe MacDonald Dettwiler also received funding under the UP program.

There may be a discussion of this and other programs in:

Andrew H. Wilson

This is the third (and last) in a series of articles to appear in Prometheus on federal policies for technology development in Canada daring the two electoral mandates of Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney. The first and second articles covered the period that began with the appearance in July 1984 of the policy-related report by Dr Douglas Wright and his colleagues and ended in the middle of 1987 as the Mulroney administration was well into its first mandate and was putting in place changes to federal technology policies and programs, some of which were Wright-related. This present article completes the story through to June 1993 when the prime minister resigned. The changes have continued under a variety of influences and haw altered the ways in which technology development has been funded, organized and promoted by the federal government in Canada. They have generally been in line with the recommendations of the Wright report, making it a suitable framework against which to consider developments in this field during the six years covered by this present article.
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