The Senator delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor.
As prepared for delivery:
Our future economic prosperity depends on whether this country continues to be a leader in science and innovation. We can't compete with India and China for low-wage manufacturing jobs. That is not our future. America’s future is to be the global leader in science and technology. America makes the best, most innovative products and services. That ingenuity and excellence is our chief economic strength as a nation.
As a former small business owner, I know it is business, not government, that creates jobs, but I believe government has a critical role to play in fostering the positive business climate we need to remain competitive. I believe there are a few things we need to do to unleash the innovative spirit that is so alive and well in New Hampshire.
To maintain the creative dominance that has allowed us to lead the world in innovation, we need to enact a long-term reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program.
SBIR is not just a typical grant program. Under the SBIR program a small business is able to compete for research that federal agencies need to accomplish their missions, agencies like the Department of Defense. Small businesses employ about one-third of America's scientists and engineers and produce more patents than large businesses and universities. Yet, small business receives only about 4 percent of federal research and development dollars. SBIR ensures that small business gets a tiny fraction of existing federal research dollars.
In the last few months I visited several New Hampshire companies that are doing cutting-edge research and growing their businesses because of the SBIR program. This research has allowed them to develop new products, add customers and hire new workers.
I want to talk about one of those companies – a firm called Airex in Somersworth, New Hampshire –because their story shows how the SBIR program encourages innovation and creates jobs.
When I visited Airex, I got a chance to see some of the impressive technologies that the company has developed. Airex specializes in electromagnetic motors and components. Its employees design and produce everything from motors used to make Apple’s iPad, to gyroscopic coils that are used to stabilize the artillery systems on Abrams tanks.
In the past decade, Airex has more than doubled its revenues and its workforce, largely through the products that it developed with the support of the SBIR program. Jim Sedgewick, the President of Airex, told me that SBIR was critically important for the development of the products that enabled the company to add several good-paying jobs in my home state.
For example, Airex was able to compete for and win a grant to do research for the Air Force on materials needed for strategic missile defense. In order to conduct the research, Airex had to develop a new, electromagnetic motor. Since the motor that Airex developed had tremendous commercial potential, Airex secured a patent. Now, that motor is used in the production process for the Apple iPad. As you can imagine, sales for that motor have increased dramatically in recent years.
The same is true for several other products that Airex developed with the help of SBIR. Airex’s products continue to be in high demand – and not just here at home, but also across the world. Exports now account for 30% of Airex’s revenues. And Airex told me that its biggest export products are the ones that were developed with the support of SBIR.
If we’re going to out-compete and out-innovate the rest of the world, we need to encourage the kind of innovation that has made Airex so successful. SBIR was integral in making Airex’s success a reality. That’s why SBIR must continue to be an important part of our strategy for staying competitive in the 21st century.
Airex is just one of many New Hampshire small businesses that have successfully competed for SBIR funding in the 28 years SBIR has been in existence. All across New Hampshire, small businesses that otherwise would not be able to compete for federal R&D funding have won competitive SBIR grants that advance technology and science and create good jobs. In just the last two years, New Hampshire firms have won 80 SBIR awards. In fact, despite its small size, New Hampshire is ranked 22nd in the nation for total grants awarded through the Department of Defense since SBIR began.
Mr. President, we need to focus on smart ways to create jobs and stay competitive. We all know that small firms are where the jobs are created in the United States. And we know that the future of the American economy rests with innovation. The SBIR program must be one important part of our overall strategy to encourage the innovation that will keep the American economy strong in the 21st century.
I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this important program.