Conglomerate GE says today it will double its investment in research and development of greentech products — its so-called Ecomagination line — to $10 billion over the next five years. That’s up from $5 billion over the past 5 years, and means that GE is one of the single biggest sources of energy R&D in the U.S., rivaling the U.S. venture capital industry, and even the U.S. federal government.
So, say GE’s energy R&D commitment comes out to about, on average, $2 billion in energy R&D per year. That comes in a bit under the investments from the entire North American venture capital industry, which invested $3.5 billion into cleantech startups in 2009, according to the Cleantech Group. And globally venture capitalists invested $5.6 billion in 557 deals across North America, Europe, China and India in 2009. GE also invests VC-style dollars through its Energy Financial Services and GE Capital, and has invested $175 million in 21 companies.
GE’s commitment to energy R&D also rivals the U.S. government’s investment in an average year. According to the American Energy Innovation Council, which was founded by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt and Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist John Doerr, the U.S. government on an average year (which isn’t a stimulus package year) spends about $5 billion per year on research and development into energy innovation. The AEIC calls for that federal funding to be boosted to $16 billion per year.
GE clearly isn’t investing in energy R&D as a philanthropic effort. In 2009, GE generated $18 billion in annual sales, up 6 percent from the previous year, and says it’s on the path to its 2010 revenue goal of generating $25 billion. GE’s Ecomagination line was founded in 2005, and sells products like its efficient Jenbacher engines, smart meters, smart appliances, wind turbines and LED lights. Over the past 5 years, GE says it has generated $70 billion in revenues through Ecomagination.
Image courtesy of American Energy Innovation Council.
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