ARPA-E Celebrates Five Years of Changing What’s Possible

on April 29, 2014 at 5:00 PM


This past week, the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) celebrated an important milestone: its fifth anniversary.

Back in 2009, ARPA-E was a handful of innovative technology leaders and staffers with ambitious ideas about creating an agile government agency that could transform the U.S. energy landscape. Today, ARPA-E is changing the game in energy innovation with a diverse investment portfolio of more than 350 early-stage energy technology projects — many of which are already showing signs of technical and commercial success.

Modeled after the Department of Defense’s DARPA, ARPA-E’s mission is to catalyze and accelerate the creation of transformational energy technologies by making high-risk, high-reward investments in their early stages of development. ARPA-E’s Program Directors are experts in their respective fields and have a passion for innovation. Each Program Director is encouraged to challenge the status quo and find new ways of looking at America’s energy problems, bringing together collaborators across varied technical and professional disciplines to solve complex problems. Program Directors serve limited terms to ensure a constant infusion of fresh ideas and an urgency to get things done.

ARPA-E also focuses on moving disruptive technologies out of the lab and into the market. Dedicated ARPA-E Technology-to-Market Advisors provide awardees with practical training and critical business information to equip projects with a clear understanding of market needs to guide technical development and help projects succeed.

Because of the time and scale of energy innovation, ARPA-E’s goal is to facilitate relationships with investors, government agencies, small and large companies and other organizations that are necessary to move awardees to the next stage of their project development. ARPA-E programs and projects will ultimately be measured by impact in the marketplace; however, in the short term, ARPA-E gauges success by project handoffs, including the formation of new companies, as well as public and private partnerships that ensure projects continue to move towards the market.

Five years in, ARPA-E is starting to see more indications of success, particularly as an increasing number of its projects draw to a close. To date, 16 ARPA-E-funded projects have publicly announced follow-on partnerships with government agencies, such as the Department of Defense. At least 24 new startup companies are moving technologies forward as a result of ARPA-E projects. Additionally, 22 projects, receiving an initial investment of $95 million in ARPA-E funds, have gone on to garner more than $625 million of follow-on investment from the private sector.

Perhaps most importantly, ARPA-E is starting to see tangible innovations emerge from its initial investments — technologies that could radically transform the U.S. energy landscape and create new options for our energy future. Click here to see just a few of them.

As Senator Lamar Alexander recently said, “There is no other program in the government that does what [ARPA-E] does in the way it does it.” With so much progress and promising innovation to celebrate after just five years, it will be exciting to watch ARPA-E continue to transform America’s future in the years to come.