Monday, November 15, 2010

ARPA-E shoots for the moon

Within the massive federal stimulus bill is funding for a small but influential government agency: ARPA-E, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Modeled after DARPA, the Defense Department program credited with creating the Internet, stealth fighter and M16 assault rifle, ARPA-E was formed to fund transformational clean-energy research and technology. ARPA-E operates with a staff of just 20 people and aims to be nimble and quick. The agency funds "pie in the sky" and "moonshot" clean-energy technologies that venture capitalists typically steer clear of. "We're funding projects that are too risky for the private sector," said Arun Majumdar, who left his job at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to direct ARPA-E. "When it's hard to shop it around Sand Hill Road," he added, ARPA-E will often step in and bet on unproven technologies that venture capitalists won't touch. More>