Fact of the Week: Projects Funded by ARPA-E are More Likely To Produce a Patent and Scientific Publication than Projects Funded by Other DOE Programs

July 23, 2018

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Projects funded by ARPA-E are five times more likely to produce a patent and scientific publication than projects funded by other R&D programs at DOE.

Source: Anna P. Goldstein and Venkatesh Narayanamurti, “Simultaneous Pursuit of Discovery and Invention in the US Department of Energy,” November 2017.

Commentary: Traditional theories of innovation stress the division between “basic” and “applied” research, and this division is embedded in federal R&D policy: The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) conduct basic research, while DOE’s energy technology offices fund applied research and development.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)—modeled after the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—was designed to break out of the traditional innovation model. ARPA-E funds high-risk, high-impact “transformational” R&D that spans the basic and applied spectrum. This is proving to be a winning model. ARPA-E-funded projects produced an average of 0.52 patents (indicating new inventions) and 2.42 publications (indicating new scientific discovery) per project. Compared to similar awards from DOE-SC and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), ARPA-E-funded projects are five times more likely to jointly produce both a publication and a patent, indicating that ARPA-E projects have successfully lead to the creation of both new technologies and new scientific knowledge.