2021 HHS Small Business Program Conference: Diverse Perspectives SEEDing Impactful Innovations


As I noted in my March 1 Open Mike post NIH Stands Against Structural Racism in Biomedical Research, the NIH seeks to do its part to end structural racism and to ensure greater diversity in all aspects of the biomedical workforce. One longstanding area of concern has been our small business programs, which account for over $1 Billion in annual investments.  Unfortunately, entrepreneur scientists from diverse backgrounds remain under-represented in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

We are working to identify ways to lower barriers for all new applicants to the NIH SBIR and STTR programs. Conferences have the ability to bring people together expressly to share perspectives and exchange expertise, including the lessons of personal experience. That is why I am pleased to announce as a first step in addressing these concerns we will be sponsoring the 2021 HHS Small Business Program Conference with the theme “Diverse Perspectives SEEDing Impactful Innovations.”​ The meeting will take place virtually April 26-30 and registration is free.

The conference will be held under the auspices of SEED, the new NIH office focused on Small business Education and Entrepreneurial Development. We plan an introduction to the plethora of resources and biomedical product development tools that SEED has to offer to the small business community, with particular focus on the wider series of initiatives at NIH aimed at diversifying the biomedical workforce.

Other informative session topics will include:

  • Diversity and Bias-Perceptions and Reality​
  • Secrets to a Successful Submission​
  • Persistence is Key: Resources for Resubmission​
  • Entrepreneurs in Action: Stories of Success​
  • Beyond Research: Building a Business​

The last two days of the meeting will provide opportunities for you to schedule individual meetings with federal program staff who can provide personalized guidance on how best to move your small business grant application, SBIR or STTR, forward and point you toward other resources that may be available.

We are committed to holding ourselves to the same standards that we published in guide notice (NOT-OD-21-053) for conference grant applicants and recipients, which describes plans to enhance diversity by increasing the participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds in all aspects of the conference. We hope you will join us for this important and informative event.

Questions? For further information reach out to seedinfo@nih.gov, visit the conference website, and stay current by following #HHSsmallbizconf across social media platforms.


One comment

  1. I am looking forward to the conference Scheduled for April 26-30. I am a basic neuroscientist who has been continuously funded by NIH 1975 with R01 grants plus Program Projects, Research Core Centers and Training Grants and other funding Mechanisms. I truly have NIH to thank for whatever success I’ve had during a long career. In about 2009 a colleague and I began a translational research program aimed at developing new drugs to mitigate hearing loss due to therapeutic drug treatment. Our success led to development of a small business, and entry into the small world of SBIRs. This experience has been a huge challenge and filled with administrative headaches. We seem to fit the worst possible characteristics. We are small, a diverse group of 5 founders, under capitalized and working on what are termed “rare diseases”. On the other hand, there are currently no FDA approved drugs that prevent any form of hearing or balance disorder, and we have a newly patented drug with IND approval, and has been through Phase 1 clinical trials. By my reading, our situation is what the SBIR/STTR program is supposed to be about. Unfortunately each turn with this program has been a problem, the most recent experience with an application not funded because of a ridiculous technicality related to unrelated grants that were previously submitted. Enormously disappointing and may signal the end of our effort, only because we have no funding to manufacture drug product for a Phase 2 Clinical Trial for which we are already promised funds. Ours is a story of the “Valley of Death due to bureaucracy and lack of fleibility in the SBIR Program. I wonder how may unique small businesses with good ideas and good potential product die this same death.

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