Google's parent company has a 'moonshot factory' and it's spending 50% of its time on climate change


X, the "moonshot factory" set up by Google's parent company Alphabet that's been responsible for developing things like self-driving cars, mixed reality glasses, cancer screens, delivery drones and internet-enabled balloons, is now spending at least half its time developing tech to address the climate crisis.


That's the word from Sarah Hunter, the director of X's public policy group, speaking at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit.


The fact that the X business unit within Alphabet is spending so much time on innovations to address global warming and help humanity adapt to it is a sign of a larger pivot in Silicon Valley and across the United States.


After years and years of flagging interest following the implosion of the American clean technology industry back in 2012 (roughly), venture investors and the private entrepreneurs that are critical to the innovation economy in the U.S. are focused on climate.


Climate technologies dominated the year's biggest deals to date -- raising billions for battery manufacturing technologies, small modular nuclear reactors and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.


X's focus on climate is also significant because of its unique position within one of the technology industry's most successful companies.


The track record for X and Google's "Other Bets" category may be mixed, but the technologies spun up from the initiatives tend to be things that stretch the outer limit of what technology is capable of achieving.


Many of the projects the business unit shepherded to development failed. Project Loon, Google Glass, along with climate change-focused projects like Makani Power (a kite-based wind turbine), and other projects to produce water from air or capture carbon dioxide and convert seawater into hydrogen and a fuel, all failed to take off.


But others, including the geothermal technology developer Dandelion; the self-driving car company, Waymo; and the long duration energy storage company, Malta, all started as projects within Alphabet's X division.


Waymo has attracted billions of dollars in funding and Dandelion and Malta are both successfully building business in the new climate economy.


For its next trick, X is focused on things like Mineral, which is hoping to create digital taxonomy of the 30,000 edible plant species that exist in the world.


The idea is to help farmers understand more about the broad varieties of plant species that could better resist the stresses of global warming and replenish soils depleted by monocultural crop production using robotics, satellite data, and machine learning.


Other climate companies spinning up inside of X's moonshot factory include Tidal, which is using a similar suite of robotics and monitoring technologies to improve seafood cultivation and ocean harvesting.






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