When you think of great American innovators, you think of names like Edison, Ford, Bell and Jobs. But the world’s next great technological breakthrough might be coming to life at this very moment in the basement of an unknown visionary somewhere in America. According to a recent article in the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, that is exactly how Cornerstone Research Group (CRG) got started in 1997. With the help of NASA and a unique Federal initiative – the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) -- CRG, which specializes in advanced materials, system engineering and manufacturing technologies, has grown from one man’s basement dream to a company with more than 60 employees, three spin-off subsidiaries and annual revenues of more than $10 million.
As President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation says: “We can create the jobs and industries of the future by doing what America does best – investing in the creativity and imagination of our people.” That is exactly what SBIR does. Established in 1982 and administered by the Small Business Administration, SBIR’s mission is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of Federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy. Each year, NASA and the 10 other Federal agencies with extramural research and development (R & D) budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 2.5% of their R&D budgets to small businesses. Since its inception, the SBIR program has awarded more than $26.9 billion. And according to the Dayton Daily News, from 2007 to 2010, nearly $93 million in federal SBIR funds went to 55 Dayton-area companies, including CRG.
The work CRG has done for NASA has led to several successful commercial spin-offs. As reported in the Dayton Daily News, “A $70,000 NASA SBIR award in 2005 for flexible, heat-activated structural patches led to two commercial products known as Rubbn’Repair and Rec’Repair that are used in the automotive and outdoor adventure markets.”
NASA created its own Space Technology Program (pdf) in 2011 and has since funded roughly 1,000 technology projects, involving thousands of engineers and technologists. It is clear, NASA’s Space Technology and SBIR successes in Dayton, Ohio and across the nation are critical to the creation of new products and services, new businesses and industries and high quality jobs. All of this is helping to stimulate the American economy and enhance our global competitiveness.