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Kleiner Perkins, PARC warm to clean tech

Venture investment firm dedicates $100 million to "green tech" while research center PARC collaborates in solar.

Two influential organizations in the information technology industry have stepped up their commitments to the emerging field of clean technologies.

Venture capital investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers said Thursday that it has created a $100 million fund dedicated to green technologies, also called clean tech.

Meanwhile, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) announced on Thursday a research collaboration with start-up SolFocus to develop "concentrators" designed to improve the performance of solar panels.

Clean tech covers a range of technologies designed to make more efficient use of natural resources. The technologies include renewable energy, biofuels like ethanol and water treatment techniques. In the past two years, the field has seen from investors and entrepreneurs.

"Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century. Disruptive innovations are possible because of recent advances in chemistry, genetics and material science," said John Doerr, a partner in Kleiner Perkins. "American and world leaders are calling for alternatives to $60-a-barrel oil, and entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge."

Kleiner Perkins is one of Silicon Valley's most well-known venture investment companies, having funded technology giants Sun Microsystems, Google and

The $100 million initiative broadens Kleiner Perkins' push into clean tech. For the past five years, the firm has invested in a handful of businesses in the area, including solar technology company Miasole and battery technology company Lilliputian.

Similarly, PARC has been boosting its research efforts on clean technology over the past few years. PARC, a subsidiary of Xerox, has made significant contributions to a wide range of computing technologies, from the graphical user interface to Internet Protocol version 6.

With SolFocus, PARC will invest more than $1 million over two years in the form of research and intellectual property, said Ty Jagerson, principal in PARC's business development group. "We're incubating SolFocus," he said.

SolFocus and PARC intend to commercialize concentrator photovoltaic systems, which generate electricity from the sun.

The solar modules, now in early testing with customers, can magnify the solar power 500 times to make the solar cell more effective in converting light to electricity, Jagerson explained.