How Alt-E Fund fits into the big picture
New energy technologies are the culmination of years of hard work from foundational science. Foundational science applies basic scientific principles in order to solve specific technological problems. The output of foundational science is a knowledge base from which innovators can draw in order to commercialize new or improved products. This is illustrated in the figure below, where the certainty of knowledge increases with each step up in the pyramid. The larger the base of the triangle, the more technologies can be brought to market.
Historically, the energy research at the very lowest level of this pyramid has been funded by the government (e.g., DOE BES, NSF, etc.). Private investors step in to push promising technologies to commercialization. There has been a gap in funding between the lowest and highest levels in this pyramid. DOE's ARPA-E was formed to help at early stages of energy technology development while private investment groups, such as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC) have formed to ready new energy technologies for commercialization. Yet these new funding sources are constrained by the lack of funding for foundational energy research. In order to grow this base, Bill Gates and others have called for funding for energy research to triple. However, government funding for energy research has remained stagnate for decades and is not likely to change. This is where Alt-E Fund steps in to accelerate the implementation of clean energy technologies by providing grassroots financial support for foundational energy research.
Alt-E Fund's relationship to the other funding organizationS
The goals of Alt-E Fund are both distinct from and complementary to the work by other funding organizations. This dual relationship can be understood as follows:
- Distinct. Government funding of foundational energy research has been crucial to the development of energy technologies and will continue to be so. Government agencies aimed at pushing technologies to commercialization, along with private investors, are critical to getting these technologies into the market place. There is a gap in funding the higher foundational stages, particularly to perform the proof of concept research necessary to attract interest in the development work leading to clean energy products. Alt-E Fund targets this predevelopment research. The government and private investment do fund some research in this space (e.g., DOE's EERE). However, this is the space that is currently the most under funded and the place where your donation to Alt-E Fund can make the biggest impact.
- Complementary. The realization of a clean and sustainable energy future will require the work of thousands of scientists and engineers. Not every experiment will work, and most will not. Breakthroughs come from piecing together the known puzzle pieces, seeing how they fit together and identifying the missing ones. This is a massive effort where many different organizations play a role, and this is how it should be. There won't be a single "silver bullet" that defines our energy future, it will be a portfolio of technologies. Each funding organization, with their own emphasis, will develop this clean energy portfolio. Alt-E Fund will play an important, complementary role to the other clean energy funding organizations.
Doesn't such an entity already exist?
There are no charitable organizations to which you can donate that will fund clean energy research. There are many small institutes tied to specific universities, and large foundations that give small amounts to foundational energy research, but no large charitable institution focused on funding clean energy research at a large scale, i.e., tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Alt-E Fund aims to be the organization that realizes a paradigm shift in clean energy funding at this crucial moment in our planet's history. We hope you will join us in that quest.