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Department of Energy's ARPA-E Program Announced a Total of $1.3 Billion in Grants in Five Years

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(Credit: John B. Carnett/Popular Science via Getty Images) East Lansing, Michigan - August 30, 2010 : Arun Majumdar peppers Muller (at center) and researcher Janusz Piechna with technical questions about their Wave Disk Engine.
Director of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
March 3
6:08 AM 2016

The Department of Energy's blue-sky research program, Advanced Research Project Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) had just held its 2016 summit. Hundreds of researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers gather in the showcase to support technologies projects, particularly in energy. In the past five years, the program has handed out more than $1.25 billion in grants.

After ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit has granted a total of $1.25 billion in private-sector follow-on funding. Last year, companies received about $850 million in private-sector funding on grants of $1.1 billion. On 2014, the count was about $625 million on grants of $900 million, as reported by GreenTechMedia. As for investment, the agency has invested a total of $1.3 billion in 475 projects.

The summit announced that a total of 45 companies, universities, and research organizations have won the ARPA-E grants and received private investments. Other than the 45 companies, other companies that have held IPOs also receive investment, including Ceres in 2012, Ideal Power in 2013 and Arcadia Biosciences in 2015.

Annually, the summit would display hundreds of innovative energy technologies, including those from ARPA-E-funded projects and selected group of researchers and technologists from companies and organizations. The program offers benefits for attendees, such as cutting-edge technologies across all energy sectors, collaborations with expert entrepreneurs and researchers, also exposure to decision makers interested in investing. Every year, every booth in the summit showcased a promising innovation, some of them even potentially revolutionary.

However, Technology Review noted that very few of the projects the ARPA-E has funded have made a commercial impact. The ARPA-E Summit generally doles out three-year grants worth a few million dollars at a time, but some argued that the ARPA-E grant alone isn't enough to commercialize energy technologies, and private-sector funding often comes up short. 

Some companies on ARPA-E's money-raising list have even reported bankruptcy, such as Infinia, a developer of Stirling engine systems for solar power. Others are struggling to commercialize their technologies, like General Compression, a compressed-air energy startup.

According to Fortune, for the first time since the program was created, ARPA-E is now looking to expand significantly beyond its original task to support moonshots. The program is now hoping to create a new fund focuses on supporting and growing later-stage energy technologies.

For more than five years, ARPA-E has seen various innovations in the energy sectors. The program has also invested in hundreds of project in a total of $1.3 billion. As for now, the agency along with the government is trying to push the program so that more project could bring their technologies to commercial scale. 

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