Congress finds that—
(1) the SBIR and STTR programs create jobs, increase capacity for technological innovation, and boost international competitiveness;
(2) increasing the quantity of applications from all States to the SBIR and STTR programs would enhance competition for such awards and the quality of the completed projects; and
(3) mentoring is a natural complement to the FAST program of reaching out to new companies regarding the SBIR and STTR programs as an effective and low-cost way to improve the likelihood that such companies will succeed in such programs in developing and commercializing their research.
(b) Authorization for Mentoring Networks
The recipient of an award or participant in a cooperative agreement under section 657d of this title may use a reasonable amount of such assistance for the establishment of a Mentoring Network under this section.
(c) Criteria for Mentoring Networks
A Mentoring Network established using assistance under section 657d of this title shall—
(1) provide business advice and counseling to high technology small business concerns located in the State or region served by the Mentoring Network and identified under section 657d(c)(1)(E)(ii) of this title as potential candidates for the SBIR or STTR programs;
(2) identify volunteer mentors who—
(A) are persons associated with a small business concern that has successfully completed one or more SBIR or STTR funding agreements; and
(B) have agreed to guide small business concerns through all stages of the SBIR or STTR program process, including providing assistance relating to—
(i) proposal writing;
(iii) Government accounting;
(iv) Government audits;
(v) project facilities and equipment;
(vi) human resources;
(vii) third phase partners;
(ix) venture capital networking; and
(x) other matters relevant to the SBIR and STTR programs;
(3) have experience working with small business concerns participating in the SBIR and STTR programs;
(4) contribute information to the national database referred to in subsection (d); and
(5) agree to reimburse volunteer mentors for out-of-pocket expenses related to service as a mentor under this section.
(d) Mentoring database
The Administrator shall—
(1) include in the database required by section 638(k)(1) of this title, in cooperation with the SBIR, STTR, and FAST programs, information on Mentoring Networks and mentors participating under this section, including a description of their areas of expertise;
(2) work cooperatively with Mentoring Networks to maintain and update the database;
(3) take such action as may be necessary to aggressively promote Mentoring Networks under this section; and
(4) fulfill the requirements of this subsection either directly or by contract.