Preparing technologies for an eventual transfer from lab to market is a key element of ARPA-E's mission, specifically called for in our statutory mandate from Congress. ARPA-E project teams are asked to prepare a Tech-to-Market Plan, which serves to guide planned activities to assess and advance the commercial viability of their technology. View the ARPA-E Tech-to-Market Plan Instructions and Template.
Why ARPA-E Requires a Tech-to-Market Plan
The vast majority of an ARPA-E project focuses on technology demonstration and answering the basic question: can we demonstrate a transformational technical concept or prototype? But there are at least two other areas that are crucial to consider in assessing the viability of a technology and potential for impact:
- Market: Will a product based on the technology create enough economic value to drive adoption by the market?
- Manufacturing: Can a product based on the technology be manufactured cost effectively and at reasonable scale?
In addition, there are three other factors that must continually be evaluated to ensure a project’s long-term success:
- Team: Does the team have the right skills and capabilities?
- Intellectual Property: What is the plan for securing intellectual property related to the technology?
- Funding: If the project is a success, how will the effort be funded after ARPA-E’s involvement?
The Tech-to-Market Plan asks project teams to assess their status in each of these areas and create a plan for advancing toward commercial viability, thus increasing the chances that ARPA-E funded projects will succeed in attaining their desired impacts.
Working with Outside Stakeholders
ARPA-E engages with a variety of stakeholders in order to support the deployment of ARPA-E projects and other disruptive new energy technologies.
Engagement with corporations is critical for ARPA-E. Existing companies have an intimate knowledge of market needs, and can share valuable perspective on the opportunities and obstacles for new technologies to play a role. This insight is used by ARPA-E to create high-impact programs, and is crucial for our awardees to help steer their efforts to innovate in these markets.
Existing corporations can also serve as valuable partners to support later-stage development, demonstration, and scale-up of ARPA-E technologies. We constantly engage with large companies to learn about their strategic interests and find areas of overlap within the ARPA-E portfolio. Where there is overlap and mutual interest, we can facilitate connections between the corporation and relevant ARPA-E funded technologies.
As an example, ARPA-E has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power companies in the United States, and with the Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit research organization that focuses on the electric power utility industry in the U.S. and abroad, to identify opportunities for testing and deploying ARPA-E funded projects that will bolster the electric grid.
Sustained funding is critical for continued development and commercialization of ARPA-E technologies. ARPA-E generally funds technologies that initially pose too high of a risk for private investors. Through ARPA-E’s support, many of these technologies will be de-risked sufficiently to attract follow-on funding.
ARPA-E projects have a broad distribution of backgrounds, maturity levels, target markets, and commercialization approaches. As a result, no single class of investors is suitable for ARPA-E’s portfolio of technologies. ARPA-E projects have attracted funding from venture capital, angel investors, family offices, corporate investors, and other investment groups.
ARPA-E engages with the investment community to become familiar with the needs and interests of various investors in regard to funding disruptive energy technologies. Each class of investor, and each specific firm, has a unique set of preferences and constraints that dictates its investment thesis and the degree to which an individual project might be suitable for funding. By familiarizing ourselves with investor needs, ARPA-E can help its awardees navigate the investment landscape and successfully find a funding source that is right for them.
ARPA-E can provide some help to project teams in various areas related to preparing for market deployment, but as a government agency, we do not perform substantive work for our projects, nor do we have the resources to do so. In cases where projects need substantial support, they may wish to seek the help of independent service providers with deep expertise in the area of need.
ARPA-E engages with various groups of service providers to be aware of the types and terms of services that may be available to aid in the success of our projects. Some relevant areas of service include law and intellectual property, recruitment, public relations, design and manufacturing, commercialization services, market research, and financial firms.
While we do not endorse any individual service providers, we can provide general guidance to our project teams on how to most effectively identify and engage with these resources.
Government and Regulatory Bodies
ARPA-E plays a narrow and specific role within federal government geared toward identifying and supporting game-changing technologies for energy. But the process of bringing new technologies to market involves many other government actors at both the federal and state levels, who focus on key issues like policy development, regulation, standards-setting, and technology validation and demonstration. ARPA-E’s engagement with these groups is essential because the full life cycle of technology development and deployment depends on their work. ARPA-E also works closely with these groups to ensure that its efforts and funding are well-coordinated, complementary, and non-redundant vis-à-vis other government efforts.
ARPA-E actively builds relationships and shares information with other federal agencies including the Department of Defense, the Applied Technology Programs within the Department of Energy, the Small Business Administration, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and many others. ARPA-E also engages with state energy agencies and regulatory bodies to maximize collaboration and coordination, and identify opportunities for complementary efforts at the state level.