January 11, 2018

ARPA-E Issues $100 Million for First OPEN Funding Opportunity for Innovative Energy Technologies Since 2015

Holland & Knight Government Energy Finance Blog
Taite R. McDonald

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) recently announced up to $100 million in available funding for applied research and development (R&D) projects into transformational energy technology solutions. OPEN 2018 is ARPA-E’s fourth such OPEN solicitation and the first since 2015, targeting innovative energy R&D that falls outside the existing scope of ARPA-E focused programs. This solicitation signals ongoing bipartisan support for the program, as we predicted in a prior blog post.

Specific areas of interest for OPEN 2018 include but are not limited to:

  1. Electricity generation from both renewable and non-renewable sources
  2. Electricity transmission, storage, and distribution
  3. Energy efficiency for buildings, manufacturing and commerce, and personal use
  4. All aspects of transportation, including the production and distribution of both renewable and non-renewable fuels, electrification, and transportation energy efficiency

ARPA-E anticipates making approximately 30-50 awards ranging from $500,000 to $10 million for the OPEN 2018 solicitation with a minimum cost share of 20%. Selected projects will be performed for a period of 18 to 36 months. ARPA-E encourages applications stemming from ideas that still require proof-of-concept R&D efforts as well as those for which some proof-of-concept demonstration already exists. ARPA-E will provide support at the highest funding level only for applications with significant technology risk, aggressive timetables, and careful management and mitigation of the associated risks. Eligible applicants include U.S. citizens, domestic entities, and foreign entities. Project teams are strongly encouraged.

Programmatic Insights

Unlike other funding opportunities from the Department of Energy (DOE), which will fund incremental technology improvements (or so-called “screwdriver engineering”), ARPA-E is squarely focused on high-risk, potentially catalytic innovations that are “one miracle away” from transforming an existing market. Indeed, this solicitation expressly seeks out the “boldest, brightest innovators” that could usher in the “next breakthrough” in energy security.

ARPA-E’s funding outlook remains positive despite recent attempts to wholly defund the agency. Indeed, the President’s “Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” takes aim at many federal grant programs including ARPA-E, while the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed a spending bill in July that included zero funding for the agency. These attacks on ARPA-E, however, lead to a swift and bipartisan backlash, including Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander, who blocked these efforts. While the $100 million in available funding announced is subject to the appropriations process, early-stage R&D funding generally garners broad political support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Next Steps for Prospective Applicants

It has been the experience of Holland & Knight’s energy advisors that competitive applicants are typically very clear about what impact they can achieve in under 3 years of funding. Further, such applicants possess demonstrable market awareness with respect to how a technological breakthrough is both economically practical and could have a transformative impact. Given the highly competitive nature of ARPA-E funding opportunities, successful applicants usually have compelling project teams. DOE National Laboratires remain highly respected in the current Administration, so strategic partnerships with these entities increase applicants’ competitive advantage. Holland & Knight’s energy advisors are always available to assist companies throughout all stages of the application process, including developing a compelling project team, scope, and submission package.

Key dates:

  • First deadline for questions is February 2nd @ 5pm ET.
  • Concept papers (4 pages max) are due February 12th @ 5pm ET.
  • The full application deadline hasn’t been announced yet.

For more information and to apply online, visit ARPA-E’s Funding Opportunity Exchange .

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