ARPA-E Innovation Summit Student Program

March 1st, 2017-

The Stanford Energy Club executive team attended the 2017 ARPA-E Innovation Summit held at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor in Washington DC this past week. The Student Program connects energy leaders from around the United States together and introduces them to ARPA-E fellows, industry partners, and research opportunities in the energy space. The three-day conference opened with remarks from Dr. Eric Rohlfing, Acting Director, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E is an agency within the United States government tasked with promoting and funding research and development of “high risk- high reward” advanced energy technologies. Modeled after DARPA, this agency according to others is intended to increase investor’s appetite for risk and push technology advancements forward, acting as a vehicle for ideas commonly held in R&D to get to market and be supported by the private sector.

“If federal funding to basic research disappears, the whole thing dies. It is not just about milking the fruit of the trees, it is about planting the seeds for the tree,” said Rafael Reif, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ARPA-E is not the only player in this space. Recently, MIT put forth $25 million in investment towards a $150 million fund called “the Engine” which serves a similar purpose in promoting tough tech ventures, ensuring a pathway of taking ideas to the marketplace. Attention at the conference also turned to employee #1 of ARPA-E, Professor David Danielson. On Monday, Bill Gates’ $1 billion fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), announced that the first two employees on the BEV science team: Eric Toone as executive managing director and science lead and David Danielson as managing director for science.

The energy conference was a split between keynote speeches, breakout sessions, panels, and fast pitches. Each of the ARPA-E fellows talked about their specific project ranging from the IONICS program focusing on solid state electrolytes to Smart Grids/Smart Cities program. Keynotes from Ilan Gur of Cyclotron Road and Saul Griffith of Otherlab talked about the normalized US dollars spent from 1957-2012 on R&D, as well as a myriad of projects funded using ARPA-E grants. The conference ended with a tech showcase, bringing several hundred universities and companies together to showcase their latest energy products. The showcase contained everything from nuclear fusion reactors with Helion Energy to iron flow batteries at the EES booth. Demos showed state of the art hydrokinetic tidal wave generators and a tractor that uses visual recognition to target certain weeds in the field.

For those interested, the 2018 Energy Innovation Summit will be held on March 12 – 14, 2018 at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD.

Written by the Stanford Energy Club