D.O.E. Grants $83 Million To Biofuels Startups (Not One Of Them In Silicon Valley)

Maybe it’s just a biofuels thing this year, but it seems like the feds are giving cleantech grant money to companies and institutions that are based anywhere but in the nation’s capital of venture capital.

The U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced six recipients of $36 million in total grant funding via the Department of Energy’s Biomass Program on Friday. That non-dilutive funding went to organizations working to make the production of “drop-in” biofuels and plant-based chemicals better, and to ultimately bring affordable alternatives to petroleum-based products mainstream in the U.S.

Despite the region’s reputation as a cleantech hotbed, not one Bay Area organization or business scored a piece of this funding. They also missed out on a previous grants round from the same program, announced in May, which doled out $47 million to eight companies in the sector.

The grant receiving companies in Friday’s announcement are from San Diego, Calif., North Carolina, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin. They included: General Atomics, Genomatica, Michigan Biotechnology Institute, HCL CleanTech, Texas Engineering Experiment Station and Virent.

The organizations in the earlier grant funding announced by the Biomass Program are based in: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey and South Carolina. They included: the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, the University of Kentucky, University of Kansas Center for Research, University of Florida at Gainesville, Metabolix, Exelus, the Domtar Paper Company, and Cellana.

Where were the Bay Area’s bio-fuels and -chemicals companies, schools and labs? We’re talking to you, L39 in South San Francisco, Solazyme, and Amyris. Maybe they were too busy hiring, and going public to apply for grants from the D.O.E.

A 2010 study of Clean Tech Job Trends by Clean Edge ranked the San Francisco Bay Area number one among major metropolitan areas in the U.S. for cleantech jobs. The study looked at job listings, early stage investment activity, job presence and patent activity.

[Ed’s note: We’ll be watching this space to see if there’s some kind of disadvantage, when it comes to government grant getting, for cleantech companies in and around the Valley.]