There are differences in opinion about the wisdom of governments picking winners or losers in an ostensibly free market. There are sound arguments on both sides.

But few would suggest that the government has no place in funding basic research. 

Cheryl Martin, Deputy Director for Commercialization for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), spoke at a recent AlwaysOn event in San Francisco and noted that ARPA-E is about "funding things that other people won't fund."

Along those lines, Energy Secretary Steven Chu just announced 66 cutting-edge research projects selected by ARPA-E to garner a total of $130 million in funding through its “OPEN 2012” program. These are potentially disruptive technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. 

The selected projects in twenty-four states span eleven technology areas including:

  • Advanced fuels
  • Advanced vehicle design and materials
  • Building efficiency
  • Grid modernization
  • Carbon capture
  • Renewable power
  • Energy storage


Approximately 47 percent of the projects are led by universities, 29 percent by small businesses, 7.5 percent by national labs, and 1.5 percent by non-profits. ARPA-E’s has funded about 285 projects with approximately $770 million in awards.

We're going to home in on a few of the grant winners over the coming weeks; look for a profile on Dr. Harry Atwater's approach to achieving greater than 50 percent solar efficiency at Caltech. But in the meantime, here's a list of the recipients reprinted from the ARPA-E document (click to enlarge):