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Intel: “Invest in America” & Greentech

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Intel (s INTC) and a who’s-who list of VC heavyweights are putting together a little stimulus package of their own — and green technology is high on their wish list. Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced Tuesday that Intel Capital has put together a new $200 million investment fund that is aimed at “key innovation and growth segments such as clean technology, information technology and biotechnology,” and has roped in 24 VC firms — including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Menlo Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures and North Bridge Venture Partners —to invest a total of $3.5 billion over the next two years.

Just how much of that money may be headed towards clean technology, Intel didn’t specify. Intel Capital has invested about $125 million in more than a dozen green startups to date, out of an estimated $6.2 billion invested it has invested in more than a thousand companies over the past two decades. But given that greentech outpaced IT and biotech to claim top spot for venture investment in the third quarter of 2009 — bringing the sector’s 2009 VC haul to some $4.85 billion — it seems likely that Intel and the other partners in this so-called “Invest in America Alliance” will be looking hard at green companies to help them gain returns on their investments.

A sampling of Intel’s green investments to date span the gamut from solar manufacturers and smart grid software and networking startups to companies making more efficient semiconductors and computing products. In January it participated in a $31 million round of funding for thin-film rechargeable battery maker Cymbet. In July it said it had invested $10 million in five startups — demand response aggregator CPower, WiMax-based smart grid networking software vendor Grid Net, home monitoring and energy management provider iControl, Irish electronics manufacturing efficiency specialist Powervation and “hybrid-core computing” developer Convey Computer.

The latter two investments highlight Intel’s ongoing interest in making computing more efficient, whether it be through advanced software or power-efficient semiconductor manufacturing — a task that shares technology with the making of solar cells. Intel led a $50 million round for its own solar spinout, SpectraWatt, in June 2008, and in July 2008 put $12.5 million into Voltaix, which makes chemicals and gases for the chip and solar cell fabrication industry, as well as €24 million (or $37.5 million) into German thin-film solar module maker Sulfurcell.

While Tuesday’s announcement was aimed squarely at the patriotic call of boosting domestic jobs and technology competitiveness, Intel hasn’t limited its greentech investments to America — the company has spread its wealth among green startups over four continents. In October 2008, it announced a $20 million investment into two Chinese companies — thin-film solar module maker Trony Solar and electricity storage maker NP Holdings Ltd. It has also invested in Taiwanese efficient display lighting maker Applied Green Light and Dubai-based home automation maker Pulse Technologies.

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