Federal agencies awarded almost $3 billion in FY 2019 to small businesses through two programs designed to develop and commercialize technologies—the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. In most cases, agencies are to notify applicants within 90 days and issue awards within 180 days.
Of the 29 agencies reviewed, half notified most applicants late. Two-thirds issued most awards late.
Agencies take various steps to improve timeliness. Some, such as using dedicated contracting officers to make awards, may make agencies timelier.
In fiscal year 2019, many agencies that participate in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs were not consistently on time in notifying awardees or issuing awards, similar to fiscal years 2016 through 2018, which GAO previously reviewed. For notification, 15 of the 29 participating agencies met the timeliness requirement (90 calendar days for most agencies) for at least 90 percent of their awards, whereas 14 did not. For award issuance, 10 agencies met the timeliness recommendation (180 calendar days for most agencies) for at least 90 percent of their awards, and 19 did not.
Agencies use various practices that they say help improve the timeliness of applicant notification and issuance of SBIR and STTR awards. GAO found that for three practices—using internal officials to review applications, using dedicated contracting officers to make awards, and developing strategies to cope with funding issues—participating agencies may be more likely to meet timeliness requirements or recommendations if they use the practices.