DOE withholds energy innovation grants to small businesses

The Trump administration is keeping small business owners waiting for news on whether they’ve won federal research grants. Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the Small Business Innovation Research program will be delaying awards “until Secretary [Rick] Perry has an opportunity to be briefed on research projects that will take place under his administration.” The agency offered no timeline for completion of that review. The SBIR Program, created in 1982 by an act of Congress, requires federal agencies with R&D budgets above $100 million dedicate some funding toward innovative small businesses. Recent awards have gone to companies doing research on energy efficiency and improved battery technology. While government funding shortages have occasionally postponed the awards in the past, Congress reached a budget deal last month that funds the government through September. So why would the popular and uncontroversial program suddenly need additional review by Secretary Perry is unclear. The answer is unclear, but the DOE also recently held up advanced energy research grants. At least 28 U.S. senators are not happy about this—they sent a letter to Perry reminding him that he must comply with the law by awarding and releasing federal R&D funds according to Congress’s direction.

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