ARPA-E’s 2022 Wrapped
2022 saw a series of exciting achievements at ARPA-E. Now, at year’s end, I want to take a moment to recap and appreciate the hard work of our team members, awardees, supporters, and other stakeholders. Thank you for a wonderful year of driving impactful energy innovation.
In 2022, ARPA-E launched four new focused programs covering a wide range of energy applications, several second phases of existing programs in areas such as electric aviation and floating offshore wind, and three potentially disruptive Exploratory Topics. We also announced selections for three of our most impactful recurring initiatives: SCALEUP, OPEN, and the SEED Exploratory Topic.
The new focused programs ARPA-E announced this year include:
- The Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resource Recovery (MINER) program to grow the domestic critical minerals supply chain and strengthen national security.
- The Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE) program to enable secure, economical recycling of the nation’s used nuclear fuel (UNF) and substantially reduce the volume, heat load, and radiotoxicity of waste requiring permanent disposal.
- The Electric Vehicles for American Low-carbon Living (EVs4ALL) program to develop next-generation battery technologies to significantly improve electrical vehicle (EV) affordability, convenience, reliability, and safety.
- The Cooling Operations Optimized for Leaps in Energy, Reliability, and Carbon Hyperefficiency for Information Processing Systems (COOLERCHIPS) program to reduce total cooling energy expenditure of a typical data center’s information technology (IT) load at any time and any U.S. location for a high-density compute system.
In addition to the focused programs above, we launched two new Exploratory Topics in the areas of life cycle assessment (LCA) tools for carbon negative buildings and low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), as well as a new cohort of small business-focused projects within our SEED Exploratory Topic. Learn more about the SEED projects in this informative video series.
This year, we announced project selections for nine ARPA-E initiatives including OPEN 2021, ONWARDS, the exploratory topic on LCA tools for carbon negative buildings, HESTIA, SEED, CURIE, MINER, SCALEUP 2021, and Challenge 3 of the GO Competition.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the selection sets:
- $36 million in funding under the ONWARDS program for 11 projects seeking to increase the deployment, and use of, nuclear power as a reliable source of clean energy and limit the amount of waste produced from advanced nuclear reactors.
- $39 million in funding under the HESTIA program for 18 projects seeking to develop technologies that can transform buildings into net carbon storage structures.
- $38 million in funding under the CURIE program for 12 projects that will work to reduce the impacts of light-water reactor used nuclear fuel disposal.
- $39 million in funding under the MINER program for 16 projects to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition.
Learn more about our SCALEUP 2021 and OPEN 2021 selections below:
In November 2022, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer Granholm joined ARPA-E Acting Director Jennifer Gerbi and other ARPA-E staff for a virtual roundtable to announce 8 selectees that received a combined $100 million in funding through ARPA-E’s Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy Technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) program. This is the second cohort for the SCALEUP program, which aims to scale up clean energy infrastructure, create good-paying jobs, and secure U.S. technology leadership.
In February 2022, ARPA-E announced $175 million for 68 research and development projects under the OPEN 2021 program. These teams are intended to develop disruptive technologies to strengthen the nation’s advanced energy enterprise. The selected projects spanned 22 states and are coordinated at universities, national laboratories, and private companies to advance technologies for a wide range of areas, including electric vehicles, offshore wind, storage, and nuclear recycling.
The Technical Team
ARPA-E hired five new Program Directors (PDs) with two to start in the new year, eight new Technology-to-Market (T2M) advisors, and three new Fellows this year.
Our new PDs are:
- Dr. Ahmed Diallo, who joined ARPA-E with extensive experience in transformative research & development to enable commercial fusion energy,
- Dr. William Horak, who brings a background in advanced thermal systems, nuclear energy, and combined heat and power to ARPA-E, and
- Dr. Laurent Pilon, whose background and ARPA-E focus is in solar, thermal, and electrical storage.
The Energy Innovation Community
ARPA-E hosted the twelfth ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Denver, Colorado in May 2022. The Summit is an annual conference and technology showcase that brings together experts from different technical disciplines and professional communities to discuss how to approach America's energy challenges in new and innovative ways and to interact with our awardees. The Summit offers a unique, three-day program aimed at moving transformational energy technologies out of the lab and into the market.
A true highlight of this event was the attendance of Secretary Jennifer Granholm who is someone I find personally motivating - and it was a real treat to see how engaged she was with our performers!
Secretary Granholm met with multiple Summit participants, culminating in a main stage fireside chat alongside ARPA-E performers Beth Zotter, CEO & Co-Founder at UMARO Foods, and Dr. Colin Wessells, CEO at Natron Energy, about their respective work advancing energy technologies.
Secretary Granholm also extensively toured the Technology Showcase, which featured 300+ transformational technologies from ARPA-E awardees.
The 2022 Summit featured over 100 speakers and keynote addresses; more than 2,100 registrants from 49 states and 12 countries; 27 government agencies including representatives from DOD, DOE, and other civilian, state, and international agencies; over 100 registered students, who joined both in-person and virtually, from 25 states and 40 universities; more than 300 transformational technologies; and focused networking opportunities. Find recordings of all speakers from the Summit here.
In 2022, ARPA-E’s impact continued to skyrocket. We carefully track and audit metrics which include private sector follow-on funding directly related to technologies ARPA-E funded, new company formation, partnerships with government agencies, exits, publications, patents, and licenses. See below for a summary of the latest numbers, which we release quarterly, and if curious you can watch a conversation between myself and our previous Associate Director for Tech-to-Market, Dr. James Zahler about these metrics.
In parallel with all of the above, we have several funding announcements in development to be released early in the new year – stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter, and attending our 2023 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, which is in-person and back home in the DMV.
For some time, we have eagerly awaited our director nominee, Professor Evelyn Wang from MIT, who was just confirmed by the Senate! As an ARPA-E performer, she brings with her an extremely valuable perspective of the Agency, and we will all be ready to enthusiastically support her vision.
On a personal note, it has been the highlight of my career and an honor to lead this Agency over the past two years. I spoke about the resilience of our Agency model at previous Summits, and the past few years with the pandemic has tested this in every way. We used our authority and flexibility to enable our project teams to succeed in trying times; we changed our office presence and hiring model to maintain our mission while preserving our term limited structure; and looking at our portfolio, it is clear that we continue to enthusiastically embrace risk. It is the privilege and responsibility of everyone at this agency to maintain our culture so we can continue to fulfill our mission.
ARPA-E is a special place, and it is proof that this kind of Agency structure can yield amazing results while it grows. My wish for the future is for it to retain its freedom, creativity, and culture. The need for energy innovation and climate action has never been more apparent, and ARPA-E will continue to play a pivotal role to address this with high-risk, high-reward disruptive R&D. We continue to hire aggressively, and I urge those risk-takers out there to consider us. A stint at ARPA-E can seem both monumental and fleeting. Time moves fast. Blink, and you might miss it. We have achieved incredible things as an Agency by taking risks – you could, too!