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Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future
the facilities, instrumentation, and equipment needed for leading-edge scientific discovery and technological development. Universities and national laboratories would compete annually for these funds.
Action B-4: Allocate at least 8% of the budgets of federal researchagencies to discretionary funding that would be managed by technical program managers in the agencies and be focused on catalyzing high-risk, high-payoff research of the type that often suffers in today’s increasingly risk-averse environment.
Action B-5: Create in the Department of Energy an organization likethe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).6 The director of ARPA-E would report to the under secretary for science and would be charged with sponsoring specific research and development programs to meet the nation’s long-term energy challenges. The new agency would support creative “out-of-the-box” transformational generic energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support and in which risk may be high but success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation. This would accelerate the process by which knowledge obtained through research is transformed to create jobs and address environmental, energy, and security issues. ARPA-E would be based on the historically successful DARPA model and would be designed as a lean and agile organization with a great deal of independence that can start and stop targeted programs on the basis of performance and do so in a timely manner. The agency would itself perform no research or transitional effort but would fund such work conducted by universities, startups, established firms, and others. Its staff would turn over approximately every 4 years. Although the agency would be focused on specific energy issues, it is expected that its work (like that of DARPA or NIH) will have important spinoff benefits, including aiding in the education of the next generation of researchers. Funding for ARPA-E would start at $300 million the first year and increase to $1 billion per year over 5-6 years, at which point the program’s effectiveness would be evaluated and any appropriate actions taken.
Action B-6: Institute a Presidential Innovation Award to stimulate scientific and engineering advances in the national interest. Existing presidential awards recognize lifetime achievements or promising young scholars, but the proposed new awards would identify and recognize persons who develop unique scientific and engineering innovations in the national interest at the time they occur.
One committee member, Lee Raymond, does not support this action item. He does not believe that ARPA-E is necessary, because energy research is already well funded by the federal government, along with formidable funding by the private sector. Also, ARPA-E would, in his view, put the federal government into the business of picking “winning energy technologies”—a role best left to the private sector.