Amid tumbling banks and bankrupt companies, small businesses may have cause for celebration. The Senate reauthorized the Small Business Administration's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs last Wednesday. In the House, Congressman David Wu (D-OR) shepherded the bill through, with a resounding 386-41 vote.

The bill will now head to the conference committee, where differences between the House and Senate bills will get ironed out, says Edsel Brown, assistant director for the Office of Technology at SBA. Congress has until the July 31to conference the bill. If the revision passes, this legislation will reauthorize the programs for eight years as well as add some much necessary fixes. One major adjustment includes allowing small businesses backed by venture capitalists to participate in the programs.

"The fact that we can move forward provides stability to the programs and gives small businesses an experienced program," says Brown, "not only for themselves but to move America forward in terms of innovation."

The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982, while the STTR came later in 1992, to aid the government in research and innovation. Today, federal agencies with an extramural research and development budget of more than $100 million allocate 2.5 percent of their dollars to the SBIR program, while agencies with more than $1 billion must donate an additional 0.3 percent to the STTR program. With 11 different agencies, the SBA on average receives $2 billion annually for SBIR and $200 million for STTR programs.

"SBIR is fundamentally an innovation program. Given the current economic climate and growing global competition, we need a robust SBIR program that supports cutting-edge companies," said Congressman Wu in his floor statement. The SBIR awards have produced more than 85,000 patents and created millions of jobs, according to the SBA.

"We are here to make sure small businesses get their fair share," Brown says.