A Virtual First: The 2021 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit Recap

Nearly every year – we took a little break in 2020 –  ARPA-E’s Energy Innovation Summit gathers participants from across the country and around the world to meet and discuss some of the most pressing issues in energy technology development. The Summit’s Main Stage program features high-level speakers and thought leaders, including Cabinet Secretaries, CEOs, and entrepreneurs working to design the energy systems and technologies of the future. The Summit’s popular Technology Showcase features presentations, displays, and interactive booths from ARPA-E performers who show off the cutting edge energy technologies funded across ARPA-E’s many energy technology development programs. One particularly exciting part of the ARPA-E Summit is its Student Program, which enables graduate students to participate in the Summit’s program (and a special student-focused program) free-of-cost. This provides them a valuable opportunity to learn about crucial energy technology issues and network with some of the energy technology companies and agencies they may look to join upon completing their educational journeys. These components – the Main Stage, the Technology Showcase, and the Student Program – are the core DNA of the event, making the Summit an annual energy innovation event NOT to be missed.

This year’s Summit, held from May 24-27, 2021, looked a little different than in the past, as COVID-19-related travel restrictions and safety concerns forced the ARPA-E team to get creative and move to a new fully-virtual conference platform for 2021. This meant that we had to try new things that we’ve never done before, but seeing as how exploring new frontiers and tackling exciting new challenges is fundamentally “the ARPA-E-way”, adapting to a fully-virtual format didn’t stop us from trying new things and achieving Summit milestones that we’ve never seen before!

As a whole, the virtual 2021 Summit started off breaking new ground for the event by expanding the program to four full days of programming (from our normal three), offering attendees even more Main Stage speakers, networking opportunities, and breakout panels than they’re used to at the yearly in-person event. The 2021 Summit also had a record-year in attendance. Over 3,000 participants registered for this year’s program. Additionally, the Summit’s Student Program saw record-numbers in participation, with over 300 students from 40 states and over 100 higher-education institutions attending and participating in the Summit’s program.

In addition to the virtual program breaking new ground on hosting more attendees and more students than ever before, the event’s flexibility enabled us to attract some truly awesome Main Stage speakers and panelists:

ARPA-E Summit Jennifer Granholm and Others

The 2021 Summit featured TWO Cabinet Secretaries from the Biden Administration, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, as well as international energy leaders like UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy The Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng and International Energy Agency Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol.

ARPA-E Summit Congressional Speakers Headshots

Elected leaders from across the nation, including Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Lisa Murkowski, House Science, Space, and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Ranking Member Frank Lucas, and others discussed some of the most pressing topics facing the nation in energy policy.

2021 ARPA-E Summit Companies Graphic

Leaders from Apple, Amazon, and Breakthrough Energy, industry executives from Sunrun and LG Energy Solution’s Michigan Inc. Tech Center, and up-and-coming energy technology entrepreneurs from BlocPower, Uncharted Power, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, discussed energy innovation from the industry perspective.

ARPA-E Summit SCALEUP Panel Graphic

A panel discussion led by DOE Loan Programs Office Director Jigar Shah showcased projects from ARPA-E’s SCALEUP program, who are working to take their technologies out of the lab and into the market.

While the 2021 ARPA-E Energy Innovation sure looked different than previous years’, the new format offered an opportunity for us to reach new audiences and take the event to new and exciting places that we’ve never seen before. Check out all of our Main Stage speakers below and subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay up-to-date on everything from the 2021 ARPA-E Summit, footage from past Summit’s, and more!