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Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill from Reps. Luján, Fleischmann and Sens. Coons, Risch Supports Small Business Innovation

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) and U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and James Risch (R-ID) today introduced the Promoting Small Business Innovation through Partnerships with National Labs Act, which allows small businesses to gain access to premier facilities at the national labs, spurring innovation and stimulating the culture of private-public collaboration.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. However, the cost of investing in necessary but expensive capital equipment often prohibits small businesses from pursuing truly innovative ideas and developing groundbreaking products. In order to address these challenges, this bill authorizes a small business voucher program that will allow small businesses to conduct feasibility studies and analyze the innovation potential of new technologies by accessing facilities and expertise at the national labs. The bill also streamlines the application and approval process for vouchers, eliminating barriers that prevent small businesses from exploring the potential of new technologies.

“National laboratories and small businesses play a key role in ensuring America's continued technological leadership,”said Representative Luján. “As challenges to our global competitiveness, national security, and environmental vitality continue to evolve, it is critical that small businesses have greater access to lab facilities and expertise. This legislation will make it easier for small businesses to access lab technologies and resources, streamline partnership agreements, and offer innovation vouchers that may be used at labs and research facilities.”

“The influence of small business on the development of our nation is anything but small,”Representative Fleischmann said. “This bill marries the entrepreneurial strength of small businesses with the unparalleled resources and expertise of our national labs. In my district, Oak Ridge National Lab is home to several state-of-the-art user facilities, such as the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, and I am happy to play a part in this effort to enable the types of public/private partnerships that grant small businesses access to facilities like this one, and drive our nation’s innovation ecosystem.”   

“Small businesses are at the forefront of creating innovative solutions to the problems that face our nation,” said Senator Coons. “Often, small businesses need access to unique facilities and resources to succeed in developing truly groundbreaking products. This bill provides businesses with access to world-class facilities and experts to help strengthen the ecosystem of small businesses innovation in the U.S.”

“American small businesses have led innovation for generations, creating lasting solutions in the fields of science, medicine, technology, and more,” said Senator Risch. “Utilizing the unique assets and expertise of our national laboratories, this bill provides additional resources for entrepreneurs to research and test their latest advancements. In my home state, the Idaho National Lab has been a leader in public/private partnerships and serves as a great example of how well this collaboration works.”

A one-pager on the bill is available here.

The text of the bill is available here

“I applaud Senators Coons, Risch, and Gardner and Congressmen Luján and Fleischmann for introducing the Small Business Voucher bill which will streamline the way small businesses access taxpayer-funded expertise and world-class facilities of the DOE national laboratory system. Supporting small businesses through cutting-edge science and technology at the labs strengthens the country's innovation ecosystem and its national competitiveness,” said Jetta Wong, Senior Advisor for Northern California Operations, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

“Small businesses often lack access to research facilities that would allow them to explore innovative ideas. DOE's small business voucher pilot programs are important tools to stimulate innovation and lower barriers to research for small businesses, while at the same time maximizing the value of the national labs to the American public. These pilot programs have already proven to be successful and should be extended to all national labs,” said Stephen Ezell, Vice President, Global Innovation Policy, ITIF.

“The Department of Energy and our 17 national labs have enabled the United States to be a leader in clean energy innovation. To maintain that leadership, however, we not only need a well-funded DOE, we need one that can partner with America’s small businesses and help these private sector innovators get their technologies into the market. We’ve seen enormous success with the GAIN initiative at the Office of Nuclear Energy, which has helped the advanced reactor industry in the U.S. grow from 48 projects in 2015 to 75 projects today. Expanding small business vouchers at DOE is a smart policy that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of national clean energy R&D,” said Josh Freed, Vice President for Clean Energy, Third Way.

“BPC Action is proud to support the Promoting Small Business Innovation Through Partnerships with National Labs Act which would expand opportunities for small businesses to harness the resources and expertise at our nation’s renowned national labs. Technology innovation drives economic productivity and growth. Providing our workers with access to resources and guidance to develop new products and services benefits all Americans by helping to grow US businesses and create jobs across industries and the nation,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action. 

“The U.S. national laboratory system has a tremendous variety of cutting-edge infrastructure and world-leading scientists and engineers.  Making that capability available to small businesses throughout the U.S. will help spur innovation and keep the U.S. in a leadership position in emerging energy technologies.  Expanding these private-public partnerships is smart advocacy,” said Dr. Todd Allen, Energy & Sustainability Thrust Lead, Grainger Institute for Engineering, University of Wisconsin.

“This bipartisan legislation would foster small business technological innovationThe GridWise Alliance has always advocated for a variety of means by which to spur innovation that will contribute further to the transformation of the electric system,” said Steve Hauser, CEO, the GridWise Alliance.

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