Helping America’s Small Businesses Build a Clean Energy Future [co-blog with U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus]
by Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
- Created: October 13, 2011, 11:32 am
- Updated: October 13, 2011, 3:42 pm
Small businesses in emerging industries – like clean energy – have cutting-edge ideas that are strengthening our country and changing the world. Today, we are helping them continue to do just that in two major ways.
First, unlike larger firms, many small firms do not have the staff or time to search for all of the federal opportunities that can help them grow and create jobs.
We are pleased to announce that today, they have a new tool with green.sba.gov, where they can find all federal opportunities in a single location.
How did this come about? For the past year, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Small Business Administration worked together to help Navy tap into the innovation that is happening throughout America’s strong and growing number of small, clean-energy businesses.
One of the first, simplest efforts was to create a single web page where all of Navy’s green and renewable energy contracts could be easily found by small businesses. Navy created that site in just a couple of months.
When it was completed, we thought, “Why don’t we do this across the entire federal government?”
So we did.
The SBA pulled together several sources of federal contract opportunities in clean energy. We added federal grant information. In addition, we included patent information so that these small firms could quickly find intellectual property information and licensing opportunities. And finally, we wrapped in all of the federal resources across several agencies that are available to help small, clean energy firms.
The result is an automated, comprehensive, streamlined site that is populated in real-time with new clean energy opportunities for small businesses.
This is a win-win. Federal agencies benefit from a greater chance of finding and working with the right business that can help meet a specific clean-energy need. At the same time, small businesses benefit from greater transparency and more opportunities to scale up.
The second major way we are helping small clean-energy firms is by building on a proven program.
Many agencies have ambitious goals for speeding their transition to clean energy. The Navy, for example, plans to have 50% of energy consumption – afloat and ashore – come from alternative sources by 2020. Already, Navy has led the way with its first hybrid ship launched last year and biofuel certifications for all ships and planes on track to be completed by the end of next year.
To build on that progress, we need to ensure that the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program continues to make a strong impact. This highly-competitive program draws out the best-of-the-best in Research and Development, providing about $2.5 billion annually government-wide to the most promising small firms. Importantly, about one-fourth of R&D Magazine’s “top 100” innovations in past years featured SBIR-driven products.
A significant portion of Navy’s SBIR opportunities, in particular, are in the field of clean energy. Since the first Naval Energy Forum was held two years ago, 27% of these proposed projects have focused on energy needs, with about 60 contracts of about $1.5 million each being awarded annually.
Already, one Navy SBIR awardee found a way to eliminate the need for battery power on helicopter-damage tracking systems. Pilots flying in sandstorms in the Middle East now benefit from this technology. On the other side of the world, in Hawaii, another Navy SBIR awardee created a system of high-tech buoys that harness the motions of waves to bring power back to the mainland Navy base.
These are just two examples that show why the Administration is working closely with Congress to ensure long-term reauthorization of SBIR so that small, innovative firms can continue to help America lead the way.
Truly, small firms working in clean energy are helping us out-build, out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. At the same time, they are reducing our dependence on foreign oil, reducing our long-term energy costs, strengthening our national security, and ensuring that we leave a better world for the next generation.
By linking, leveraging, and aligning the federal government’s tools to help them, we can ensure that they continue to do all this while creating jobs and strengthening our overall economy.
About the Author
Karen Gordon Mills is the Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.
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