In a speech before the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, in which he called for the US to surpass its record investment in research and development—set in 1964 at the height of the space race—with an R&D funding commitment to exceed 3% of GDP, President Barack Obama announced the launch of the $400 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
In addition, the Department of Energy announced $777 million in grants to establish 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers.
ARPA-E is a new Department of Energy organization modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The recommendation to create ARPA-E came from a report of the National Academy of Sciences entitled Rising Above The Gathering Storm, and funding for ARPA-E was included in the Recovery Act.
ARPA-E will award grants to recipients that enhance the economic and energy security of the United States through the development of breakthrough energy technologies; reduce the need for consumption of foreign oil; reduce energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; improve the energy efficiency of all economic sectors; and ensure that the United States maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.
ARPA-E has issued an initial solicitation that focuses on applicants with a well-formed R&D plan for a transformational concept or new technology that can make a significant contribution towards attainment of the President’s Energy Plan. Under this announcement, ARPA-E will fund energy technology projects that:
Translate scientific discoveries and cutting-edge inventions into technological innovations; and
Accelerate transformational technological advances in areas that industry is not likely to undertake independently because of high technical or financial risk.
Energy Frontier Research Centers. The 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers will address current fundamental scientific roadblocks to clean energy and energy security. Roughly one-third of the centers will be supported by Recovery Act funding.
These centers, involving almost 1,800 researchers and students from universities, national labs, companies, and non-profits from 36 states and the District of Columbia, will address the full range of energy research challenges in renewable and carbon-neutral energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and cross-cutting science. Each center will receive $2-$5 million per year for an initial period of five years.
The 46 EFRC awards span the full range of energy research challenges described in the DOE Basic Research Needs (BRN) series of workshop reports, while also addressing one or more of the science grand challenges described in the report, Directing Matter and Energy: Five Challenge for Science and the Imagination.Many of the EFRCs address multiple energy challenges that are linked by common scientific themes—such as interfacial chemistry for solar energy conversion and electrical energy storage or rational design of materials for multiple potential energy applications. The distribution of the EFRC awards by broad topic areas (with the related BRN reports listed in parentheses) can be described as follows:
Renewable and Carbon-Neutral Energy (Solar Energy Utilization, Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Biofuels, Geological Sequestration of CO2); 20 EFRCs
Energy Efficiency (Clean and Efficient Combustion, Solid State Lighting, Superconductivity); 6 EFRCs
Energy Storage (Hydrogen Research, Electrical Energy Storage); 6 EFRCs
Crosscutting Science (Catalysis, Materials under Extreme Environments, other); 14 EFRCs