WASHINGTON—Small new high-tech firms that struggle for their share of the federal research and development pie have cast a vote of confidence for the Small Business Innovation Research program, which helps them get it.

Ninety-five percent of the nearly 800 small companies responding to a General Accounting Office survey said it is worthwhile participating in the program, which by next month will have handed out $1.1 billion in federal R&D funds.

“The program opened up a new area for small businesses,” said Cornelius P. Williams, evaluator in charge of the GAO report, which was released in July. ‘They are really pleased.”

A 1982 law requires federal agencies with R&D budgets above $100 million to devote 1.25 percent of their outside research funds to companies with fewer than 500 employees. In a six-month first phase, firms get $50,000 to test project feasibility. During a two-year second phase they get up to...

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