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President Barack Obama announced the launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) on April 27 as part of a sweeping announcement about federal investment in research and development and science education. ARPA-E is a new DOE organization modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the defense agency that gave us the Internet, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and many other technological breakthroughs. ARPA-E was recommended by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and was authorized by Congress in 2007, but it received its first funding of $400 million via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. See the president's speech, which was delivered at the NAS annual meeting.
ARPA-E will fund energy technology projects that translate scientific discoveries and cutting-edge inventions into technological innovations, and it will also accelerate technological advances in high-risk areas that industry is not likely to pursue independently. It will not fund improvements to existing technologies; this research will continue to be supported through existing DOE programs, such as those of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. ARPA-E's mission will be to develop new energy technologies that offer significant progress toward reducing imported energy; reducing energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; and improving energy efficiency. See the White House fact sheet.
To launch ARPA-E, DOE has issued the first Funding Opportunity Announcement for the new agency, offering a total of $150 million, with individual awards of $500,000 to $20 million. As one sign of the change in approach, applicants are initially asked to submit only eight-page "concept papers" that briefly outline the technical concept; applicants that make the first cut will be invited to submit full applications. DOE anticipates awarding grants, cooperative agreements, or Technology Investment Agreements, with the latter two most likely because of the need for substantial interaction between ARPA-E and the awardees. Concept papers can be submitted to DOE from May 12 through June 2. The full solicitation can be found by searching the public opportunities on the FedConnect website for reference number DE-FOA-0000065.