New DOE agency seeks concept papers for energy projects

By Kris Bevill | April 14, 2009
Web exclusive posted April 30, 2009, at 10:02 a.m. CST

As part of the Obama administration's plan to improve the U.S. energy strategy, a new organization has been created within the U.S. DOE with the sole purpose of funding research and development of transformational energy-related technologies.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy has a $150 million budget to aid in financing potentially disruptive technologies. According to the agency's funding announcement, it is willing to take on high-risk projects and will have the flexibility to work with companies that have traditionally been unable to work with the federal government. "ARPA-E's role is more than simply providing R&D funds," the announcement stated. "ARPA-E will actively work to make your R&D succeed." The agency anticipates awarding between $2 and $5 million to the majority of accepted projects. Certain projects may be selected to receive up to $10 million and, in extremely exceptional cases, the agency may choose to accept efforts for up to $20 million.

Interested parties are encouraged to submit concept papers for projects. Submitted papers should explain the "kernel of the R & D idea" and, if accepted for funding, will form the basis of the full project application. Papers can be submitted at www.fedconnect.net and will be accepted from May 12-June 2.

All types of entities are encouraged to apply, including for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions and research foundations. Partial participation from foreign entities is allowable, but the lead organization must be based in the U.S. According to the agency, the call for concept submittals is intentionally broad on applications and technologies, so as not to rule out any possibilities. However, concepts must be focused on transformational R&D and potentially cover all aspects of the agency's mission areas.

The mission areas of ARPA-E are to locate and advance immature technologies that promise to reduce U.S. consumption of foreign energy sources, reduce energy-related emissions, improve the energy efficiency of all economic sectors and to ensure a U.S. lead in energy technologies. While it is yet unclear how ethanol projects may be viewed by the agency, the program has the potential to provide funding for projects that have so far been unable to secure financing due to the high-risk and unproven nature of their technologies.