Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates urged innovators to continue their work and stressed the importance of more public and private funding for energy technology inventions at a summit Tuesday at the Gaylord Hotel at the National Harbor.
Gates, who was a keynote speaker at the event, said there are not enough funds for such creative innovations.
“It’s crazy how little we’re funding this energy stuff,” he said.
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Gates said the road ahead is hard, and that many energy companies will fail, but he urged his audience to keep at it.
“This is a very complex set of technologies, and so we need literally thousands of companies trying these things,” he said.
Solar panels, lightweight flexible batteries, and rechargeable car engines were among the inventions on display at the Energy Innovation Summit. The annual summit is in its third year, and more than 250 new technologies were displayed.
Zach Dunbar, who works with energy technology for the Army, said such innovations could improve the way we live.
“It’s really about providing a capability that doesn’t exist right now,” he said.
Dunbar and his colleagues found a way to replace batteries with a chemical fuel called methanol, which can provide power to things like laptops for up to 16 hours using clean energy.
He is one of hundreds of innovators who gathered at the Gaylord Hotel, hoping to gain inspiration and funding for their projects.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, which created the Summit, did so with $400 million received through President Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus plan. Organizations seeking funding for their projects apply directly through the U.S. Department of Energy, which is the parent organization for ARPA-E. The agency is currently funding 121 projects with amounts ranging between $500,000 and $10 million.
The goal of ARPA-E, according to its website, is to “invest exclusively in high-risk, high-reward energy technologies.” Other panelists for this year’s summit include former President Bill Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and MIT President Susan Hockfield.