US advances 70 cutting-edge energy proposals

21 August 2009 20:04  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Energy Department said on Friday it has invited some 70 cutting-edge research projects to bid for $150m (€105m) in special programme funding designed to trigger major energy technology breakthroughs.

The department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) said that only about 70 project proposals out of approximately 3,500 submitted have shown sufficient scientific merit to move on to the final competitive round for the special research and development (R&D) funding.

ARPA-E spokeswoman Tiffany Edwards said that the department cannot provide any details about the 70 project proposals that made the cut because the selection process must maintain strict impartiality.

The authors of those 70 short-listed R&D projects must present detailed proposals - known as “full applications” - to the department by next Friday, 28 August.  The 70 project managers were notified on 29 July of their selection and the application deadline.

The decision on which projects are to share in the $150m worth of funding will be made as early as the end of October, according to ARPA-E.

ARPA-E is patterned on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) established by the US Defense Department in 1958 to stimulate and co-ordinate academic, commercial and military R&D in national security and space exploration, among other goals. 

Among results of that 1960s-era effort was the US space programme and development of DARPA-net, a multi-institutional and country-wide data and information-sharing computer network that eventually became the Internet.

The ARPA-E objective is to stimulate the kind of paradigm-changing research and scientific application that helped put a man on the Moon and triggered the exponential expansion of science and knowledge that is in part reflected by the Internet and the World Wide Web.

The 70 research proposals that have advanced to the final vetting process presumably meet the ARPA-E criteria for “transformational” energy concepts.

“Transformational technologies” are defined by ARPA-E as those that “disrupt the status quo” and are so significantly better than current technology as to trigger a paradigm shift in conventional operations and practice.

The department expects to make awards in the range of $500,000 to $10m to those R&D projects that are selected, which could be as few as 15.  The agency said that for an extremely exceptional proposal, it might award as much as $20m.

The winning projects must be completed within 36 months and preferably within two years, ARPA-E said.

In addition to being transformational in nature, those projects selected for funding must be led by a US entity, and at least 90% of the project funds must be used within the US and at least 75% of the R&D work must be done by US firms or institutions.

In order to avoid duplication of research already being sponsored by the department, none of the projects selected for funding may be led by a federal agency or laboratory or by a federally funded R&D centre.

The department said that the nature of the final projects selected for funding likely will be disclosed when the grants are announced in October.

($1 = €0.70)

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