[Editor's note: Arun Majumdar, director of the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), is providing the question this week.]
What are the "white spaces" where government investments in R&D can have the most impact?
Access to environmentally friendly and affordable energy will be at the core of sustainable economic growth in the 21st century. An intense global race is under way to create these energy technologies and make them affordable worldwide.
As a country, we have a choice to make: We can buy the technologies of tomorrow from abroad or we can invent locally, make locally, and sell globally. It is now more important than ever to invest in game-changing ideas that will build the technological infrastructure for a new energy economy and ensure that America stays competitive in the global market.
To compete in this global energy race, we need to use our biggest American renewable resource - our ingenuity - to invent and manufacture cutting-edge technologies here in the United States. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama emphasized the importance of supporting American innovation and expanding U.S. exports. He laid out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last - an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
Just as President Eisenhower's created DARPA in 1957, President Obama launched Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, or ARPA-E, in 2009 to seek out transformational, breakthrough technologies. ARPA-E's role is to focus on funding projects that are too risky for private-sector investment but have the potential to translate science into quantum leaps in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and have large commercial impacts. We are focusing on what we call "white spaces," which are undeveloped areas where technology could revolutionize the way we use and produce energy to secure our economic prosperity and national security for future generations.
What are the most pressing white spaces you see for developing domestic energy technologies and industries?
How do government and private industry complement each other's efforts in bridging the gap between the discovery of a breakthrough technology and its mainstream adoption?