Call for UK cleantech version of ARPA: Page 2 of 3

September 14, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
Call for UK cleantech version of ARPA
Researchers in the UK and Germany call for a European version of ARPA to address climate change
allocated US$3.38 billion.

The aim was to accelerate innovation in "clean" technologies such as biofuels, smart grids and solar power at a time when it was out of favour with Venture Capital investors, due in part to long development cycles and low initial returns.

For the latest study, researchers investigated whether ARPA-E - a "posterchild" of mission-orientated innovation now under threat from the Trump administration - had translated its unique approach into real-world success.

By constructing a database of 1,287 US cleantech startups, and using patents as a proxy for innovation, they found that companies funded by a fledgling ARPA-E in 2010 went on to file patents at an average of twice the rate of other green energy companies in the years that followed.

The researchers also measured "business success" by looking at how many companies were taken public or acquired by larger firms, as well as levels of private VC funding and overall survival rates.

While ARPA-funded companies do better than those turned down by ARPA-E, in general they fare no better or worse than other cleantech startups with the same amount of patents and private funding before 2010.

As such, the researchers argue that ARPA-E support alone does not bridge the "valley of death": the phase between initial funding injection and revenue generation during which startups often fold.

“It appears that ARPA-E helps startups working on riskier but potentially more disruptive technologies to reach the same levels of success as other, less risky, cleantech firms," said Goldstein. "However, there is still a need for public funding to bring innovations in clean technology through the 'valley of death' so they can become commercial products that compete with legacy technologies and reduce emissions."

Anadon points out that, at just 1.7% of GDP, the UK lags in R&D investment: below the EU28 average, and way behind the US, South Korea and Japan.

"While the UK dramatically increased energy investment over the

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