Thermal Systems: The Future of Energy at ARPA-E Summit
One of the exciting things about working at GE Global Research is envisioning planet-scale energy production 10, 20, 50, and even 100 years in the future. I had the pleasure of spending the two days this week at the annual ARPA-E Summit, where I was surrounded by 3000 engineers and scientists who also dream of this future energy state…this was my kind of crowd!
Events like this are very invigorating to me for several reasons. One highlight of the ARPA-E summit is the slate of interesting speakers that address the crowd. Speakers range from politicians, to researchers, to business leaders. Some of my favorites:
-At the top was T. Boone Pickens, famous for the Pickens Plan. I’ve followed Pickens for years now, and have always resonated with his clarity of thought. He is pushing hard for the U.S. to get a plan for energy, and he is right (“…a fool with a plan is better than a genius with no plan…”). And he has pushed for decades for the U.S. to shift away from imported oil as much as possible, and shift to natural gas as a transportation fuel. If you’ve followed our blogs in the past, you know that we are very bullish on NG vehicles…it’s a personal passion of mine.
-Elon Musk, creator of Pay Pal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, among others. Elon is such an interesting leader. I appreciate his clear thinking on how to assess a problem on first principles and physics. If this is in conflict with what the world is doing, then you have unearthed an excellent opportunity. Certainly SpaceX follows that pattern.
-Mitch Daniels, former Governer of Indiana, and now president at Purdue. One topic he mentioned is that Purdue has now told its students that they own any inventions they create while at Purdue, rather than the university. This is very different than most universities, which are increasingly active in monetizing the IP of their students and professors. President Daniels’ reasoning is that there is more long-term value in students starting businesses with their IP, rather than the university licensing to others.
There were so many other interesting speakers…hard to pick just three!
Even more important was the opportunity to network with other energy researchers, particularly folks from start-ups. One of the great things about the U.S. is the uncountable number of start-ups, especially in the energy space. I’ve got great researchers with great ideas on my team at GE, but we have the humility to know that for every researcher who works for GE, there are 10,000 who don’t, and many of them have great ideas too! So I’m constantly on the look-out for small businesses with great ideas, many of whom are excited about potentially partnering with GE, with our scale and access to markets. I met dozens of companies, especially in natural gas vehicle technologies; absorption chillers; and energy storage technologies, just to name a few.
Are you part of an energy start-up? If you want to share your idea with us, let me know!