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with both emerging technologies and constantly changing customer demand, whereas the chess player has to contend with his or her opponent’s king and surrounding players always moving. Thus, both face changing obstacles and opportunities. The proactive player typically wins the chess game, and it is the proactive program manager who is usually most successful at DARPA.


aL. H. Dubois. DARPA’s Approach to Innovation and Its Reflection in Industry. In Reducing the Time from Basic Research to Innovation in the Chemical Sciences: A Workshop Report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003. Chapter 4.





research and education. In 2004, the National Science Board convened a Task Force on Transformative Research to consider how to adapt NSF processes to encourage more funding of high-risk, potentially high-payoff research.

Several accounts indicate that although program managers might have the authority to fund at least some high-risk research, they often lack incentives do so. Partly for this reason, the percentage of effort represented by such pursuits is often quite small—1 to 3% being common. The committee believes that additional discretionary funding will enhance the transformational nature of research without requiring additional funding. Some committee members thought 5% was sufficient, others 10%. Thus, 8% seemed a reasonable compromise and is reflected in the committee’s recommended action. The degree to which such a program will be successful depends heavily on the quality and coverage of the program staff.


The federal government should create a DARPA-like organization within the Department of Energy called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) that reports to the under secretary for science and is charged with sponsoring specific R&D programs to meet the nation’s long-term energy challenges.42


One committee member, Lee Raymond, shares the alternative point of view on this recommendation as summarized in Box 6-3.

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