Qualcomm Seeks Spark for Brew MP, Northrop Grumman Gets $35M for UAV-to-UAV Refueling, & More San Diego BizTech News

It was a busy week for San Diego BizTech news, as Qualcomm convened its inaugural Uplinq conference to encourage programmers to write apps for its Brew MP system. We’ve got that news and more, so link up here.

Qualcomm convened its first-ever Uplinq conference in San Diego last week in a bid to reinvigorate the development of mobile device apps based on Qualcomm’s Brew MP mobile operating system. The Brew platform that Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) introduced nine years ago has been eclipsed by smartphone operating systems like Android and the iPhone. But Qualcomm is offering some significant cash prizes for programmers who develop creative apps based on Brew MP.

—San Diego’s Connect issued its innovation report for the first quarter of the year, saying new company formation fell by 21 percent—with just 51 startups established, compared with 66 startups that formed during the same period in 2009. Economist Kelly Cunningham, a senior fellow at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, says the downturn is probably seasonal.

Northrop Grumman says its San Diego advanced concept business has begun working under a $33-million Pentagon contract to demonstrate that one of its unmanned Global Hawk spy planes can be used as an aerial tanker to refuel another. The UAV-to-UAV in-flight refueling is to be completely autonomous, and will mark a historic milestone for both aviation and robotics if it’s successful.

V-Vehicle, the automotive startup based in San Diego, is awaiting the outcome of its revised application for $320 million in loans from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. The company’s plan to build a manufacturing plant in Northeastern Louisiana depends on getting the loans approved.

—The California Department of Labor awarded San Diego a $4 million grant to provide biofuels job training for workers in the region. The state also named San Diego and Imperial Counties as the state’s seventh innovation hub. The governor’s office of economic development specifically identified biofuels, mobile health, and solar energy and energy storage as new technologies that the San Diego region excels in.

—San Diego’s Genomatica says it is catalyzing a revolution in the petrochemical industry by showing that it has successfully scaled up technology that uses genetically engineered microbes to make 1,4-butanediol (BDO)-a solvent and industrial chemical usually made from crude oil or natural gas. Genomatica uses genetically engineered microbes and raw materials to eliminate energy-intensive industrial processes and petrochemicals in making the key intermediate chemical.

—Toyota delivered three new Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) last week for use by San Diego Gas & Electric and the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Energy in what’s expected to be a year-long test to assess the vehicles’ performance in real-world driving conditions.

—San Diego game console maker Zeebo expanded its recent $8 million debt-and-equity financing round to $13.5 million. Zeebo is backed by San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) and Brazilian video-game developer Tectoy S.A., and has focused so far on developing products for the Latin American market.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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