Next week, ARPA-E will host its sixth annual conference and technology showcase convening energy experts and entrepreneurs for three-days focused on moving disruptive energy technologies out of the lab and into the market. We spoke with Dr. Cheryl Martin, Deputy Director for Commercialization at the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) for her perspective on the mission of the Summit and what’s new this year. Dr. Martin leads ARPA-E’s Technology-to-Market program, which helps breakthrough energy technologies succeed in the marketplace.
As a partner to the ARPA-E Summit, NVCA will host the Investing Networking Breakfast. If you are interested in attending the ARPA-E Summit and attend the NVCA Breakfast register here. In addition, NVCA Members, Colleen Calhoun, GE Ventures and Neal M. Dikeman, Shell Technology will participate as judges at the Future Energy Pitching Session on the evening of February 9 and ARPA-E Deputy Director Dr. Cheryl Martin and other prominent industry leaders at the ARPA-E booth for a special networking event with women in the energy sector Women in Energy Breakfast on February 11.
NVCA: What are you noticing in terms of the kind of companies applying for grants? Are they different than previous years, perhaps less capital intensive?
Dr. Martin: At ARPA-E, we see a complete range of products. We focus on transformational energy projects, from the newest ideas on carbon capture, to battery management, new fuel cells, solar, hardware and software – and we continue to see outstanding ideas across the suite. The mix of how entrepreneurs are moving forward has changed.
The strategic venture side remains strong and they are very excited about where the sector is headed, identifying opportunities where their capital and expertise could be well utilized. In addition, firms are putting resources toward understanding innovations in the space. We are also seeing new models. So for us, how we respond to strong strategy investment interest and we try to make sure we coach our teams on their elevator pitches and how they present at their booths.
NVCA: How can entrepreneurs make the most of their time at the Summit?
Dr. Martin: At the ARPA-E summit, we are encouraging entrepreneurs to network. We are also hosting tours around different areas of the showcase, like energy storage, energy and power train technologies, innovative natural gas technologies, so people can get an overview of what is going on. With a showcase as vibrant as ours, it can be hard to see everything.
The convenient and high quality App for the ARPA-E is going to be quite impactful for folks who want to assess what they should see. (Check out the ARPA-E App here) The goal of ARPA-E is to bring together the right knowledge and networks to move a technology forward.
The investor community – regardless of where they come from – should see the cutting edge technology that is transforming the way we consume energy, fuels, and you can see what is the state of the art and where there is new opportunity to grow a nascent sector. These teams are well prepared to speak to their product, and provides an efficient way to accelerate conversations. The Future Energy Pitching Session at the Summit will be held on February 9, 2014 from 6:00-7:30 PM and will feature 6 to 8 early-stage energy technology startups presenting to a panel of top venture capital investors including NVCA Members, Colleen Calhoun, GE Ventures and Neal M. Dikeman, Shell Technology.
NVCA: What will be new this year, and what can people expect from years past?
Dr. Martin: Alumni come back because they are getting traction in the marketplace and they want to raise more. We are seeing more and more engagement from the private sector to come and bring these technologies forward. We are still seeing traction among companies and firms, and we hope that these wise investors stay in the game!
This year, we are really excited about the Women in Energy Breakfast featuring the incredible Nancy Pfund of DBL Ventures and Colleen Calhoun of GE Energy Ventures. We expect a few hundred women and men to be in the room to see the work women in energy have accomplished.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has hosted the Energy Innovation Summit for the past five years. ARPA-E invests in disruptive ideas to create America’s future energy technologies. ARPA-E programs are created to address critical challenges in energy innovation, and ARPA-E-funded project teams receive hands-on guidance to meet ambitious milestones that push the boundaries of energy innovation and help move their technologies into the marketplace. For more information on ARPA-E and its innovative project portfolio, please visit www.arpa-e.energy.gov.