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Army starts fund for portable power

The U.S. Army will invest money in private-sector entrepreneurs with the goal of getting better transportable power sources for soldiers.

Taking a page from the corporate world's book, the U.S. Army is launching a venture capital plan it hopes will lead to better portable power for soldiers.

The goal is to fund development of better transportable power sources for soldiers by partnering with entrepreneurs in the private sector. Called Venture Capital Initiative (VCI), the plan will be modeled after the CIA's In-Q-Tel plan, a four-year-old program that focuses on funding companies that develop data organization products, security software and other technologies that can be used by the intelligence community.

Army officials said turning to the private sector for portable energy products is a natural step because creating longer-lasting, lighter batteries has long been the holy grail of the tech industry.

"Finding new energy sources for soldiers is akin to a search for better power solutions for handheld computers like Palm Pilots, BlackBerrys, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones," said A. Michael Andrews, army chief scientist. "Lighter and smaller is better."

The army has chosen OnPoint Technologies, a Maitland, Fla.-based nonprofit organization, to manage the plan. OnPoint will be responsible for acting as a liaison between entrepreneurs and the army, helping to incorporate developing technologies into the Army's plan, and helping VCI to earn money to support itself.

The Army did not say how much money it would invest.