Monday, 30 August 2010

The US Government Funds Cutting Edge Research

Though it has been a while since my last post this is not due to a lack of enthusiasm and interest in the opportunity that is climate change. Far from it. I have had a fantastic holiday and then witnessed first hand some of the creativity and ingenuity that humanity will have to show to solve and ultimately benefit from the problems we have created for ourselves. My job took me, in mid July, to the Farnborough International Airshow; not a centre of environmental innovation?


But it is a centre of human ingenuity. As I watched the F22 hovering in mid air, performing maneuvers even its most recent cousins couldn't dream of I marveled at the genius of humanity. We certainly produce some spectacular things when we turn our mind to war and I know (or at least hope) this same type of genius is turning its attention to technology that will benefit and ultimately save humanity. These are the people working on disruptive technologies in companies we have probably never heard of.

This type of research has always (and probably always will be) a long way behind the funding provided to military research but as the world wakes up to the issue of climate change more funding will be spent in smarter ways. I was particularly impressed to read that the US government is funding ARPA-E, a programs very similar to DARPA's research into speculative military technology. The idea is to fund low 'probability' high 'benefit' research into technology.

I will look more closely at this program in the next few days but think there could be some truly revolutionary outcomes from this approach. It is certainly one of the most exciting funding developments in the energy field for a long time.

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