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The Government as Venture Capitalist: The Long-Run Effects of the SBIR Program

  • Josh Lerner

Public programs to provide early-stage financing to firms, particularly high-technology companies, have become commonplace in the United States and abroad. The long-run effectiveness of these programs, however, has attracted little empirical scrutiny. This paper examines the impact of the largest U.S. public venture capital initiative, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which has provided over $6 billion to small high-technology firms between 1983 and 1995. Using a unique database" of awardees compiled by the U.S. General Accounting Office, I show that SBIR awardees grew significantly faster than a matched set of firms over a ten-year period. The positive effects of SBIR awards were confined to firms based in zip codes with substantial venture capital activity. The findings are consistent with both the corporate finance literature on capital constraints and the growth literature on the importance of localization effects.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5753.

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Date of creation: Sep 1996
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Business, Vol. 72 (July 1999): 285-318.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5753
Note: PR
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  1. Bronwyn H. Hall., 1992. "Investment and Research and Development at the Firm Level: Does the Source of Financing Matter?," Economics Working Papers 92-194, University of California at Berkeley.
  2. Douglas A. Irwin & Peter J. Klenow, 1994. "High Tech R&D Subsidies: Estimating the Effects of Sematech," NBER Working Papers 4974, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gompers, Paul A, 1995. " Optimal Investment, Monitoring, and the Staging of Venture Capital," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(5), pages 1461-89, December.
  4. David M. Levy & Nestor E. Terleckyj, 1983. "Effects of Government R&D on Private R&D Investment and Productivity: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 551-561, Autumn.
  5. Lerner, Josh, 1995. " Venture Capitalists and the Oversight of Private Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(1), pages 301-18, March.
  6. R. Glenn Hubbard, 1998. "Capital-Market Imperfections and Investment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 193-225, March.
  7. Christopher B. Barry, 1994. "New Directions in Research on Venture Capital Finance," Financial Management, Financial Management Association, vol. 23(3), Fall.
  8. George W. Fenn & Nellie Liang & Stephen Prowse, 1995. "The economics of the private equity market," Staff Studies 168, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  9. Freear, John & Wetzel, William Jr., 1990. "Who bankrolls high-tech entrepreneurs?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 77-89, March.
  10. Sahlman, William A., 1990. "The structure and governance of venture-capital organizations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 473-521, October.
  11. Devenow, Andrea & Welch, Ivo, 1996. "Rational herding in financial economics," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 603-615, April.
  12. Mansfield, Edwin, et al, 1977. "Social and Private Rates of Return from Industrial Innovations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 91(2), pages 221-40, May.
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