Helping the Little Guy: the impact of government awards on small technology firms

Aleksandar Giga, Alexandra Graddy-Reed, Andrea Belz, Richard J. Terrile, Fernando Zapatero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provides federally funded research awards to companies with 500 or fewer employees. We explore the differential effects of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration SBIR program on firms of various sizes on their future patenting activity. Using propensity score matching, we construct comparable samples of selected and non-selected Phase II SBIR applicants by firm size. We then estimate the effect of selection for the matched sample on the probability of forward patent activity and conditional on any forward patenting, the count of patents within three years of the proposal. While firms with fewer than 10 employees, are least likely to patent, their probability of patenting is positively affected by receiving a Phase II award. We find sparse evidence of corresponding increase for larger firms. Nor do we find any evidence that a Phase II award impacts the conditional number of forward patents in the three years following the award. These data suggest that the Phase II award serves to advance the smallest teams "over the hump" to creating a potential source of competitive advantage.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Technology Transfer
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Entrepreneurship
  • Innovation policy
  • R&D subsidies
  • SBIR


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