The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) fills key gaps in the U.S. energy innovation system. Its funding yields new science that is relevant to energy innovators and leads to the creation of a significant number of new companies, services, and products. In fact, new research by ITIF shows that, contrary to the claims of the Office of Management and Budget, the private sector would not have achieved ARPA-E’s results were it not for this young agency’s contributions. These findings support and extend a recent comprehensive assessment by the National Academies.
On November 15th, 2017, ITIF hosted a discussion on ARPA-E’s versatile role in clean energy innovation featuring the new study’s authors, David Hart and Michael Kearney, along with an expert panel of energy innovators and thought leaders.
David Hart, a senior fellow at ITIF, started off the event by introducing the founding and purpose of ARPA-E. Hart’s new report “ARPA-E: Versatile Catalyst for U.S. Energy Innovation” found that the ARPA-E supports and encourages innovative ideas which have turned into 56 new companies with $1.8 billion in private-sector funding. Hart said that his study looked specifically at ARPA-E funded cleantech projects and how they fared in the market in comparison. Hart said ARPA-E provides an integral role in overcoming the “valley of death” or the gap between research and private-sector funding. Moreover, the study found that ARPA-E projects “were five times more likely than either of those other programs to produce a patent and a publication”.
This new agency was created as a means of tackling the nation’s energy challenges in a way that could translate basic research into technological breakthroughs while also addressing economic, environmental, and security issues. As outlined in his new report, Hart said that studied investment data indicates that ARPA-E complements private investment rather than substituting it.
This discussion closed with the consensus that the ARPA-E is a successful adaption of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model that has funded out-of-the-box, transformative research. Panelists concluded that continued funding for programs like ARPA-E is necessary to expand clean energy innovation and industry in the United States.
Follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #ITIFcleanenergy.