General Atomics and SAIC received the contracts from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. It is the military's research and development funding arm and is seeking biofuel alternatives for military aircraft, which make up a significant percentage of the $6 billion the military spends on fuel annually.
A team led by General Atomics of San Diego – a privately held company best known as the maker of the Predator unmanned aircraft – got a $19.9 million grant. SAIC, a wide-ranging defense research and engineering firm also known as Science Applications International Corp., leads a group that received $14.9 million. (...) Some biofuels scientists found the SAIC award puzzling since the company isn't known to have an active biofuels research program.
Of GA partners: General Atomics will work with several partners on its contract, including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Hawaii BioEnergy in Honolulu and the University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental Research Center.
Of other companies: Several companies are looking at algae as a potential biofuel locally, most of them small, private firms. One of the larger private companies conducting this research is Sapphire Energy.
Sapphire, which raised $100 million in venture capital from Bill Gates, Arch Venture Partners and others, aims to use a host of means, including possible genetic engineering, to try to produce not just vegetable oil but a more refined biofuel from algae.
This more refined fuel would need little or no additional processing to work. Efforts to reach Sapphire were unsuccessful.
Of Hawaii BioEnergy: Hawaii BioEnergy formed in 2006, bringing together Hawaii landowners Maui Land & Pineapple, Kamehameha Schools and Grove Farm of Kauai in an effort to develop crops that can be converted to energy.
GA In Algae Business at UVox