It’s been a busy two and a half years for Arun Majumdar, who is stepping down from his post as director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy. As the founding director, voice and face of the agency, better known as ARPA-E, Dr. Majumdar has been on the front lines of the Obama administration’s investments in experimental energy projects, many of which focus on improving efficiency, reducing pollution or devising plant-based alternatives to fossil fuels.
The agency was created in 2007 but funded only in 2009, with $400 million allocated under the Recovery Act. Under Dr. Majumdar’s direction, ARPA-E has invested more than $500 million in a dozen programs. The idea is to support long-shot technologies that could transform the way we generate, store and use energy. Grants averaging about $3 million apiece have supported more than 180 projects, which run the gamut from electrode material research by the battery start-up Envia Systems to work on the genetic modification of E. coli for biofuel production by the synthetic biology venture Ginkgo BioWorks.
[…]In a telephone interview, Dr. Majumdar reflected on his time in Washington, the future of energy innovation, his experience seeking bipartisan support from Congress and what he has coming up next.