A new analysis of the successes and failures of green energy companies in the US has found that those with ARPA funding filed for far more patents in the years after launching than other "cleantech" startups from the same time. The "innovation advantage" from ARPA-E, the energy version of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was not shared by startups funded via other US government initiatives.
The new findings offer encouragement to a UK government considering its own cleantech version, but any agency adopting this model requires a focus in order to flourish says Professor Laura Diaz Anadon from the University of Cambridge.
However this could be difficult when the UK is looking for a new head of its innovation agency, InnovateUK.
"Our US-based research points to the value of ARPA agencies. The UK may well benefit from such an approach in a post-pandemic world, given the technological capital within its universities and private sector," said Anadon, co-author of the US innovation study.
"The UK should adapt the ARPA model to create an agency for the climate challenge as part of any Covid-19 recovery package. Focusing research and development on next-generation energy storage and renewables, and solutions for decarbonizing shipping, aviation and construction, could boost productivity and deliver large benefits to society," she said.
Dr Anna Goldstein, first author of the study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said: "ARPA is not a one-size-fits-all solution. ARPA agencies are mission-focused, and there is no evidence to suggest this model would work well as a fund for general science and technology."
The research was conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, the Technical University of Munich in Germany and the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US and published in the journal Nature Energy.
ARPA-E was established at the US Department of Energy using a portion of the economic stimulus package that followed the 2009 financial crisis. To date, it has