Innovation to reduce the cost of clean technologies has large environmental and societal benefits. Governments can play an important role in helping cleantech startups innovate and overcome risks involved in technology development. Here we examine the impact of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) on two outcomes for startup companies: innovation (measured by patenting activity) and business success (measured by venture capital funding raised, survival, and acquisition or initial public offering). We compare 25 startups funded by ARPA-E in 2010 to rejected ARPA-E applicants, startups funded by a related government programme and other comparable cleantech startups. We find that ARPA-E awardees have a strong innovation advantage over all the comparison groups. However, while we find that ARPA-E awardees performed better than rejected applicants in terms of post-award business success, we do not detect significant differences compared to other cleantech startups. These findings suggest that ARPA-E was not able to fully address the ‘valley of death’ for cleantech startups within 10–15 yr after founding.
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The data on cleantech firm identification used in this study were made available to us by Cleantech Group under a restricted license and are therefore not publicly available. Supplementary Data 1 contains an anonymized version of our company-level analytical sample with the names of the firms removed. Supplementary Data 2 contains the company-year panel dataset. The full dataset is available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of Cleantech Group.
Supplementary Code 1 contains the Stata code that enables the reproduction of our main analysis.
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We thank Cleantech Group for providing access to their i3 database. We also acknowledge excellent research assistance by A. Amini, B. Dirscherl, P. Gigglinger, A. Hammerstingl, S. Kurowski, C. Lex and N. Schlosser. We acknowledge funding from the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation H2020 under grant agreement no. 730403 (INNOPATHS) and from the Belfer Center’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. We also acknowledge a grant from John and Elizabeth Armstrong.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Tables 1–11, Fig. 1, Note 1 and refs. 1–10.
Stata file with 1,287 de-identified cleantech startups.
Stata file with company-year observations of outcomes for cleantech startups 2011–2017.
Stata code to reproduce regression results in Table 1, Table 2 and Supplementary Table 4.
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Goldstein, A., Doblinger, C., Baker, E. et al. Patenting and business outcomes for cleantech startups funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Nat Energy 5, 803–810 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-00683-8