Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: January 27, 2010

Program to Foster Innovation in Energy Technologies Is Off to a Promising Start, Members Hear


(Washington, DC) – Today, House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) at the Department of Energy (DOE). Members and witnesses discussed the accomplishments and future plans for the agency, as well as the role of ARPA-E in the larger energy technology landscape.
“Just as the originators of DARPA can look back on its successes—the internet, stealth technology, GPS—I firmly believe that, in the not-so-distant future, members of this Committee will look back on our role in the formation of ARPA-E and take great pride in the technological breakthroughs and new industries that will inevitably result from its work. ARPA-E will in turn serve as a model for innovation in other programs within DOE and other federal agencies,” said Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “I appreciate the feedback from the witnesses today on how ARPA-E can best be positioned to serve its role as a driver of job creation and technological competitiveness in the U.S. We’ll keep this in mind as we move towards reauthorization in the coming months.”
ARPA-E was first authorized in the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), based on recommendations from the 2005 National Academies’ report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.  The National Academies panel made a series of recommendations to enhance the nation’s technological competitiveness, including a recommendation calling on the federal government to create a new agency within DOE, patterned after the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the Department of Defense, to pursue high-risk, high-reward energy technology development.
ARPA-E received its first funding in 2009 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5) included allocations of $400 million for ARPA-E to become fully operational and the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8) appropriated $15 million for the start-up of ARPA-E.
The first Funding Opportunity Announcement, in April 2009, received an unprecedented response of almost 3,700 concept papers.  Ultimately, 37 projects were chosen from 334 finalists to receive a total of over $150 million in awards. ARPA-E completed all of the award contracts within three months after the award announcement, and most within two months. This rapid pace for federal contracting represents a 60% reduction over the average DOE procurement cycle time.
“I have followed very closely the progress of ARPA-E, and I can safely say that I am very encouraged by what I have seen,” said Gordon.  “Dr. Majumdar and his team understand their mission better than anyone. They understand that their charge is to be innovative not only in the projects they undertake, but also in how they undertake them. They appear unafraid of confronting the traditional bureaucratic hurdles and trying new models for spurring innovation.”
The panelists agree that there are more good ideas than ARPA-E’s funding can accommodate.  Chairman Gordon has been working with Secretary Chu and Director Majumdar to create a forum in which finalists and awardees could present their proposals and meet with potential investors. This would allow DOE’s work to serve to vet the nation’s most promising energy technologies and encourage private sector support.  The first such forum will be the ARPA-E Innovation Summit, to be held March 1st-3rd at the Gaylord Convention Center at the nearby National Harbor in Maryland.
For more information the Committee’s work on ARPA-E, please visit the Committee’s website.


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