Green

Google.org announces progress, confirms $10M in eSolar

googleorg.jpgGoogle’s philanthropy arm, Google.org, today provided an update on its five core initiatives.

Google.org is different from many philanthropic groups in that it stresses it wants to make money from some of its activities. However, in contrast to its earlier solar and electric car initiatives, the latest activities, which include fighting pandemics, don’t seem as directly intended to make money.

The progress includes more than $25 million in new grants to initial partners. It’s all part of the Google’s founders commitment to devote about one percent of the company’s equity plus one percent of annual profits to philanthropy.

The announcements are as follows:

1) Predict and Prevent

Google says it wants to empower communities to predict and prevent events – such as infectious diseases to environmental disasters — before they spread, by identifying “hot spots” and enabling a rapid response. It is initially focused on Southeast Asia, a hot spot for SARS and potentially bird flu, and tropical Africa. Initial grants include:

–$5 million to InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters) to improve early detection, preparedness, and response capabilities for global health threats and humanitarian crises.

–$2.5 million to the Global Health and Security Initiative (GHSI), established by the Nuclear Threat Initiative to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats, incluing workforce training and better laboratory capacity in the Mekong Basin area (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Yunnan province, China).

–More than $600,000 to Clark University, with equal funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, for Clark Labs to develop a system to improve monitoring, analysis and prediction of the impacts of climate variability and change on ecosystems, food and health in Africa and the Amazon. This system is a prototype platform to deploy analysis tools over the Internet.

2) Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services

Initial grants include:

–$2 million to Pratham, a non-governmental organization in India, to create an independent institute that will conduct the Nationwide Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) as well as large scale assessments in the education sector. The goal is to expand these types of assessments to other sectors.

–$765,000 to the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, a Bangalore-based analysis group, to create a Budget Information Service for local governments to facilitate better district- and municipal-level level planning in India.

–$660,000 to the Center for Policy Research, an action oriented think tank based in India, to increase the debate and discourse on issues of urban local governance and urban service delivery.

3) Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Google.org says it wants to lower transaction costs to invest in small and medium sized enterprises (SME), to encourage economic and job growth in the developing world. Technoserve is an initial partner:

–$4.7 million grant to TechnoServe to provide general support to expand Technoserve’s efforts to support enterprises, spur job creation, and strengthen poverty alleviation programs globally, and to develop and implement a business plan competition to support entrepreneurs in Ghana and Tanzania.

esolar.jpg4) Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal

This was announced last year, but here’s the latest:

–$10 million to eSolar, a Pasadena, CA-based company specializing in solar thermal power which replaces the fuel in a traditional power plant with heat produced from solar energy. eSolar’s technology has great potential to produce utility-scale power cheaper than coal. Google announced its intention to work with eSolar in November (see VentureBeat coverage), and has now closed the investment deal (downloads) pdf.

5) Accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT).

This one was announced last year, and there’s nothing new to report.