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In Case You Missed It: Recap of the 2012 Energy Innovation Summit

March 1, 2012 - 6:50pm


Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, hold a "fireside chat" at the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. | Photo by Quentin Kruger.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, hold a "fireside chat" at the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. | Photo by Quentin Kruger.

The President put it best in his weekly address last week when he said America needs an all-of-the-above approach to energy.

But what does an approach like this actually look like?

Quite simply, this means harnessing our traditional sources of energy in a safe and responsible manner while continuing to develop the breakthrough technologies we need to lead the clean energy race and create jobs here at home. This is exactly what this week’s three-day ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit was all about.

Nearly 2,500 of the nation’s brightest minds from across the energy ecosystem came together outside Washington, D.C. to share ideas about how we can advance technologies to address America’s energy challenges.

Attendees at the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) third annual summit heard from top leaders in business, research and government, who offered their insights on how to break down commercialization barriers and bring the energy solutions of the future to the market faster.

A few highlights from the Summit included a fireside chat between Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Microsoft Founder and Chairman Bill Gates, where the two exchanged ideas about how small businesses and innovators can overcome the challenges that face many startups. President Bill Clinton also spoke to attendees, and stressed the importance of government investment in research that will help move the world toward a cleaner and more secure energy future.

In addition to these speakers, attendees also heard from FedEx CEO Fred Smith, XEROX CEO Ursula Burns, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander -- just a few of more than 100 industry and congressional leaders that spoke at the conference.

The Summit also featured a Technology Showcase of more than 240 breakthrough energy developments from ARPA-E’s awardees and other innovative companies. These projects covered everything from grid-scale storage to building efficiency to advanced carbon capture and electrofuels.

ARPA-E was launched in 2009 to support projects that could lead to transformational, breakthrough technologies, but are too risky for private sector investment. If successful, these projects could form the foundation for new industries and make a real impact on the economy.

ARPA-E has already attained success in its three short years. Eleven of its projects have done such promising work that they’ve secured more than $200 million in outside private capital investment.

Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E, closed the Summit Wednesday with an announcement of a $150 million funding opportunity open to all breakthrough energy technologies -- yet another sign of the Obama Administration’s commitment to an all-of-the-above approach to energy. This funding opportunity could support transformational and high-impact energy R&D projects related to renewable power, bioenergy, transportation, conventional generation, the electrical grid, and building efficiency among other technology areas.

By continuing to drive innovation through initiatives like ARPA-E, the Energy Department is helping to push the boundaries of technology and build an American economy that lasts. Visit this fact sheet for more highlights from the Summit.