Secretary of Energy Steven Chu speaks at the 2013 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. | Photo by Sarah Gerrity.

The fourth annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit kicked off yesterday near Washington, D.C. bringing together energy thought leaders, and highlighting technologies with a high potential to change the way we generate, store, use and think about energy.

For three days, entrepreneurs, investors and industry thought leaders assemble to conduct business, attend workshops, tour the Technology Showcase of ARPA-E funded technologies and discuss the future of energy.

Technology sessions yesterday with the ARPA-E program directors provided attendees with a look at the impact of the research grants they manage, and the processes for selecting their technologies. Experts in panel discussions provided insight into contracting and conducting business with the military installation energy market, assessing the commercial viability of energy technologies on a regional scale, and protecting intellectual property for entrepreneurs and startups.

As important as the technical and business approaches in emerging technologies and markets is the ability for people to make valuable business connections. Startups need funding to grow their initial research into a product, and then get that product to market. Generally, these entrepreneurs rely upon pitches -- concise, vivid descriptions of their technology’s impact -- to investors to acquire this funding.

Monday night, eight early-stage energy technology startups pitched to a panel of top venture capital investors, and received feedback on their presentations, opening up the doors to potential commercialization. The competing startups are developing technologies ranging from uranium molten salt reactors to natural gas vehicle tanks to solar compressor pumps.

The ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit and Technology Showcase continues today and tomorrow. Featured keynote speakers include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Governor Mitch Daniels, entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, and a fireside chat with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.