May 14, 2007 6:40 PM PDT
Matching American money with Swedish green tech
President Bush is scheduled to meet with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Tuesday morning to discuss, among other things, green tech and cooperation between the two countries.
But the meeting between Reinfeldt and Bush is hardly the first time officials of the two countries will have met to discuss green tech. In fact, on a recent trip to Silicon Valley, Michael Wood, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, pitched 30 Swedish green tech companies to 18 venture capitalists during a meeting at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. p>
In an interview with CNET News.com, Wood said Bush and Reinfeldt are expected to discuss creating an alternative energy program that will involve collaboration among universities, researchers and businesses.
The Swedish companies Woods was discussing with the Valley's money community were looking for so-called early stage investment from American venture capitalists, who in recent months have been aggressively investing in green tech companies. Among the venture firms at the meeting was Sequoia Capital, which has not yet made alternative-energy investments (at least publicly known ones so far).
Also at the meeting was VantagePoint Venture Partners, which made eight investments in clean tech companies last year. Two of them were in Europe--Chemrec in Sweden and Solar Century in the U.K. VantagePoint is partnering Chemrec together with Volvo Trucks in Sweden.
The Chemrec investment was made three months ago. "We have some milestones to meet in the next year but this company is much further along than any other company in this field," said Bernie Bulkin, a VantagePoint partner and chairman of the board at Chemrec.
"These are early-stage investors. They want to get in and then they want to get out in three to five years," Wood said. What's more, he said, they want to see if the Swedish companies can see beyond their own borders and recognize the global opportunity.
Chemrec may be one of those companies. It had developed a technique to make biofuels out of so called black liquor--the waste products from trees when producing paper and pulp. Only 50 percent of the tree winds up as pulp and paper and the other half is a waste product that's sometimes burned relatively inefficiently to provide electricity.
Chemrec already has a plant at a pulp mill in North Carolina and a smaller, demonstration plant in northern Sweden. Company officials hope refining of the black liquor can cover up to 25 percent of the fuel used in Swedish road transportation.
"There is a lot we can learn from the Swedes," Wood said. Comparing the venture with two of the biggest Swedish inventions, the seatbelt and the catalytic converter, he added: "What I'm hoping is that there is a seatbelt of renewable energy embedded in the list of 30 companies."
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