Innovation, Partnership, and the Era of Overachievers: Highlights from the 2014 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

March 04, 2014 at 8:00 AM


Christina Briggs

Economic Development Manager

If you haven’t heard of ARPA-E (Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy), you may not be alone. Modeled after DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which is credited with inventing the Internet, this small, but mighty Department of Energy program is doing big things. ARPA-E’s mission is to develop an “all-of-the-above” national approach to energy. In its mere five years of existence, the agency has invested more than $900 million in 362 technology projects, ranging from battery chemistries to electric vehicle architecture to solar concentration techniques. It’s probably no surprise that many of its award recipients are Bay Area companies, universities and National Laboratories. Our region is literally leading the way in transforming the way we use and produce energy.

Each year, ARPA-E holds an Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C., where renowned thought leaders take the stage and entrepreneurs network, pondering today’s most exciting energy technologies. The buzz is palpable. This year was no exception, and what follows are some of the dominant themes we observed. 

“Average is officially over.”

Journalist Thomas Friedman offered a keynote address focusing on how our world has so quickly transformed from a “connected” world to a “hyper-connected” world, resulting in the exponential growth of collaboration possibilities. He cited a litany of hyper-connected examples, including the availability of a 3G network at the top of Mt. Everest and the advent of software that replaces professional services, such as attorneys and accountants. He contends that the challenge of our day is that “average is officially over,” and that those who embrace this fact will succeed.

“We must invent ourselves to prosperity.”

Congressional representatives and business leaders both spoke about the continued need for innovation and the critical role that failure plays in this process. They expressed concern that partisan politics may stifle innovation if failure is used as a political football and not seen as a down payment on future success. Having lived through the Solyndra story, Fremont knows this better than most.

“There is more to solar than just the panel.”

A renewed sense of optimism about solar technology prevailed. As a solar hub, Fremont found this encouraging. Major players like Sunpower discussed how they are broadening their businesses to include not just manufacturing, but also integration, installation, and even leasing — all things that can’t be outsourced. This was a big takeaway — considering the economic benefit of the entire solar energy system, not just the production of panels.  

“Don’t underestimate the public in public/private partnerships.”

University of Sussex Economics Professor Mariana Mazzucato walked us through the thesis of her book, “The Entrepreneurial State.” Her claim is that at a time when we need public/private partnerships more than ever, we don’t talk enough about the role the public sector plays in innovation. She argues that real innovation takes time, and it’s government that can afford to wait and risk, citing the surge in “product-less IPOs” because VCs seek such quick exits. 


Category: Fremont

We invite you to share your comments. Please check out our social media comment policy.

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.
Great report on the ARPA-e Summit, Christina. (And it was great to see you there as well.). I would add that the "public" contribution of ARPA-e must be leveraged differently than DARPA's. While it is modeled after that DoD success, it differs in a critical way: ARPA-e and the DOE are not a built-in customer, which DoD is. I wholeheartedly agree that we must improve recognition of the public contribution. We must also recognize the increasingly essential relationship between the private and the public efforts to move technology to the marketplace.


Welcome to our blog – Takes from Silicon Valley East!  Our view is slightly different here on the east side of the bay – from the Mission Peak backdrop to the advanced manufacturing companies that dot our boulevards. As we become more urban and strive to interpret the business issues affecting our innovation economy, we want to share with you our observations, insights, photos, arguments, agreements, inspirations and CEO interviews – and here on our blog is exactly where we plan to do this.

Tag Cloud

Christina BriggsArchitectureAlameda CountyPublic Private PartnershipsSan Francisco 49erCommunitySatellite OfficeBrookingsHeitmandB ControlenActBatteriesAdvanced ManufacturingBrent PearseMartha AmramEnergysmall business, development, permitsCalChargeBioMed NetworkOverton Moore PropertiessustainabilityMFG DayLennarHappy HolidaysMens WearhouseWarm SpringsMade in The Bay AreaOpen City Hall, Innovation, FremontHightechMark Schmidt10th Happiest CityLife SciencesRetailNUMMIIncentivesLarry CarrWattz OnCleantechBusinessGOODJohn CabecaNo. 10PlanningNerdwalletNadine NaderICSCStanfordRestaurantThe Crossings at 880HousingIMCPRealtorTrade MissionKQEDIndustrialTransitEast Bay Biomedical Manufacturing NetworkUrban LivingRachel DiFrancoClimate Action PlanChevron Energy Solutions Charging StationsInnovationModel-X San Jose State VentureFred DiazAuto MallSeagateLithium Warren AveWork Space FremontWells FargoLabor DayLou HoffmanGreenBiz.ComUSPTOCoworking SpaceWarm Springs/South Fremont BART Station OfficeDeVry UniversitySoamsawali MahidolMayorKid RockSuper BowlSan Francisco Business TimesLegislative EventFood TrucksAutoBusiness AppreciationDemolitionJessica von BorckMad MenPatrick DempseyJennifer Duarte Business FriendlySteve TuttChristine HertzogState of the ValleyAlameda Workforce Investment Board James C. Davis Pacific Commons, VestarSolyndraBoehringer Ingelheim DetroitFremont MarriottBARTTimur Tecimer BatteryExpansionULIPatentsVTAManexPrologisSmart CityCECHoffman AgencyHunter's PointLeroy LeDelta ProductsKelly KlineTeslaBiomedicalEconomic DevelopmentStart upsRetentionThink Silicon ValleyInnovation DistrictGrowthCommunity PlanSouth FremontBlissScoreOverton MooreSolareventsCareerBlissinternet, IOT, marketing, product roadmapAnu NatarajanNumber 1Ohlone CollegeGenZeOnshoringJeff AndersonThermoFisherSensiba San FilippoIndiaSanta ClaraYear in ReviewUrban VisionNew YearBill HarrisonCivic CenterRankingCaliforniaRoyal HighnessFUSEBay AreaState of the CityOorjaCity Government CommunicationsPlanet MagpieHigher Ed, Warm Springs, Education, Ardenwood, Devry, NPU, Ohlone, University, CollegeFremont, Manufacturing, onshoringEast Bay EDARestaurantsStreet EatsFuture Is BrightLeasingRepostVergeElevator PitchCut the CrabTop Silicon Valley CityWorkforceDeveloperSeafoodKen LeeFremont Chamber of CommerceJennifer ChenSoraaStrategically UrbanJob SeekerNISTInnovation ScorecardICSC AlliancedowntownFavoriteVerge ConferencePatti CastroAsia SocietyPacific CommonsJoint Venture Silicon ValleyParagon ApartmentsCEOBusiness Q&AStartupsNancy PfundThe TeamTom SteyerKaren BurnsGary SchlossbergCNMIBill BrowneWhole FoodsMen's WearhouseBryan JonesFootballAaron GoldsmithThailand PrincessSan FranciscoBioIntClean Tech OpenBest Run CityOn The RiseBicycling Applied SpectraApartmentsQuicken LoansManfacturingTrademarkManufacturingDBL InvestorsentrepreneursAlter-GP5FDICHappiest Mid-Size Cities 2013Investment ProfilereshoringTransportationReal EstateOur FavoriteFremont ResidentSpicely OrganicsEVMark DanajEconomic DevelpomentInnovation AwardsOpportunityWaterTim TranFremontSmart Grid LibraryEricaGies24/7 Wall StreetBlogsFremont Street EatsSilicon ValleyLeydenWashington WestExperience ElectricUrbanYesim ErezClimateJeff SchwobClean TechPoshmarkBlack FridayHappinessthe GOOD City Index GigafactoryKim MarshallLauren HelperIncubation