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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Intel in China, ice-powered air conditioners

Even with turmoil in the financial markets, venture capital is still flowing to energy-tech ventures.
Here are the latest such investments: • Intel Capital has made its first clean-tech investment in China, the company said Tuesday.

The venture-capital arm of the chip giant put $20 million into Trony Solar Holdings, a Chinese solar thin-film cell developer. It also invested an undisclosed sum in NP Holdings, which makes large-scale energy storage systems for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Intel Capital set up a $500 million fund for tech deals in China earlier this year, according to Reuters.
"We think innovation is the way to help companies out of this financial crisis," Cadol Cheung, head of Intel Capital in Asia Pacific told reporters Tuesday. "We have no plan of slowing down our investment pace."
• Ice Energy said Tuesday it has raised $33 million in a second round of funding. The round, led by Energy Capital Partners, also provides up to $150 million in project development financing.
Ice Energy makes rooftop air conditioners that use ice to help lower the cost of operating them.

During off-peak hours, such as the middle of the night, the machines freeze water. During the day, the ice cools the refrigerant to run the air conditioner, cutting down on the electricity it would otherwise need.
The ice storage can shift the demand to off-peak times by as much as 40 percent, according to the company. For that reason, the company is marketing its products to utilities looking for ways to reduce peak demand to avoid construction of new power plants.
• Blue Source said Monday that Goldman Sachs will take an equity stake in the company and finance carbon offset projects. Ice Energy's rooftop ice-cooled air conditioner.Ice Energy's rooftop ice-cooled air conditioner.
Blue Source identifies and runs projects that reduce greenhouse gases, such as methane capture at landfills, and carbon capture and storage at oil wells.
Goldman Sachs will market and trade the offsets from Blue Source projects in carbon emissions trading markets, according to the companies.
• General Electric said last week it is investing $30 million in lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems, part of a planned $102 million series E round.
GE is now the largest investor in the company with a 9 percent stake after having put in $55 million. The two companies are working on various projects, including integrating A123 Systems' batteries in the Think all-electric town car and a hybrid bus platform.

Anti-Piracy Tool Draws Chinese Suit.

Microsoft has filed 52 lawsuits against alleged software pirates.
The software giant, which has led an active campaign against counterfeit copies of its software over the years, announced Tuesday that it filed cases against resellers in countries that ranged from China to the Netherlands to the United Kingdom and United States.
Microsoft noted that in 15 of the 52 cases, the software involved could allegedly be traced to a massive commercial counterfeit syndicate that Chinese authorities and the FBI broke up this summer. Most of the alleged illicit sales were conducted through e-commerce sites.
Counterfeit copies of their digital goods cost members of the worldwide software industry an estimated $40 billion annually, according to Microsoft. The tech titan also cited a study conducted by the Business Software Alliance and market researcher IDC that put the global PC software piracy rate at 35 percent last year.
Redmond also unveiled a "Microsoft Buying Guide" on eBay as a tool for educating consumers about counterfeit applications. In addition, it maintains an information site with tips on how to detect pirated software.
Through users' tips, Microsoft said, it also gleaned enough information to refer 22 criminal cases to various law enforcement agencies around the world.

.....Complaint Against Microsoft

Anti-Piracy Tool Draws Chinese Suit, Complaint Against Microsoft
A man from Beijing has sued Microsoft while a Chinese lawyer asked the government to fine the U.S. firm $1 billion for turning black the desktop screen of computers installed with pirated software.
A Beijing man surnamed Liu asked the Haidian District People's Court to compel Microsoft to remove the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program on his PC and the permanent desktop screen warning "You may be a victim of counterfeit software."
"Microsoft has no right to judge whether the installed software is pirated or not. It has no right to penalize users by intruding on their computers," said Liu, according to the People's Daily Online.
Beijing lawyer Dong Zhengwei, 35, asked last week the State Administration for Industry and Commerce to fine Microsoft. He also asked the Ministry of Public Security to order Microsoft to stop what he described as hacking and infringement of privacy perpetrated by the company through its WGA.
Meanwhile, the China Computer Federation condemned Microsoft on Tuesday for what it called "unsolicited remote control of computers" since introducing WGA in China last week to combat illegally copying of its software for sale to the public at a cheaper price.
"If a company believes others have infringed their intellectual property rights, it can collect evidence and take judicial measures to deal with the infringement according to Chinese law," the federation said in a statement.
The WGA does not stop computers using the Windows XP operating system from functioning. The warning label can be erased but reappears every one hour.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 20 new awards totaling $57.3 million

Projects will better define plant responses to changing environments and contribute to understanding of genetic processes in economically important plantsThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has made 20 new awards totaling $57.3 million during the 11th year of its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). These awards, which cover two to five years and range from $350,000 to $6.8 million, support research and tool development to further knowledge of genome structure and function. They will leverage sequence and functional genomics resources to increase understanding of gene function and interactions between genomes and the environment in economically important crop plants such as corn, soybean, wheat and rice."Plant biologists continue to make significant conceptual and theoretical advances in our understanding of basic biological processes using plants," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. "It is clear that 21st century biology has become increasingly quantitative and interdisciplinary. The latest projects funded through the PGRP reflect this shift and will integrate innovative, cutting edge research with the training of the next generation of plant scientists at both research universities and small teaching colleges and universities."The new awards, made to 45 institutions in 28 states, include international groups of scientists from Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.First-time recipients of PGRP awards include California State University-Long Beach, Case Western Reserve University, North Carolina Central University, University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Southern California and Western Illinois University.A wealth of genomics tools and sequence resources developed over the past 11 years of the PGRP continues to enable exciting, new comparative approaches to uncover gene networks that regulate plant development and growth in changing environments.

Projects include:
Research led by the University of Southern California to study how Medicago truncatula, a small legume, and associated soil bacteria co-adapt to high salinity conditions. This project will be done in collaboration with scientists in Tunisia and France.

Research led by the University of Minnesota, Duluth to identify the molecular mechanisms of nectar synthesis and secretion in the Brassicaceae, an agriculturally important family of flowering plants.

An interdisciplinary effort led by Pennsylvania State University to define the regulation of maize shoot growth and development by the plant hormone auxin.

A multi-institutional effort led by the University of California, Davis to develop genomics resources that will support the physical mapping of wheat chromosomes; this project will complement ongoing national and international efforts to sequence the wheat genome.

Research led by the University of Georgia to generate populations of mutant plants that will advance our understanding of the functions of agronomically important genes in soybean.

This year's awards were selected from a pool of outstanding proposals, many of which leveraged data and other resources previously produced with PGRP funding. The outstanding quality of these proposals testifies to the PGRP's success in enabling innovative research.
The PGRP, which was established in 1998 as part of the coordinated National Plant Genome Initiative by the Interagency Working Group on Plant Genomes of the National Science and Technology Council, works to advance the understanding of the structure and function of genomes of plants of economic importance.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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