Cymer Sees Growth in Chip-Making, Northrop Grumman Combat Drone Takes First Flight, TurboTax Launches Mobile Tax-Filing App, & More San Diego BizTech News

The innovation economy took center stage last week in San Diego, where new innovations were announced in mobile apps, unmanned aircraft, and new technology platforms developed for smart grid operating systems. We’ve got it wrapped for you here.

—Diego-based Cymer (NASDAQ: CYMI), which is considered a bellwether for the semiconductor industry, said during a fourth-quarter conference call last week that several of its chip-making customers had recently raised their capital expenditure projections for 2011. Cymer makes advanced, deep-ultraviolet lasers for use in photolithography to make chips. “We believe this increase in ‘capex’ investment will translate into continued growth as the year proceeds,” CEO Bob Akins told investors, analysts, and journalists.

—Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), which operates an engineering and development center for unmanned aircraft in San Diego, said its stealthy X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) successfully flew its long-delayed first flight at Edwards Air Force Base on Friday. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is intended to serve as a carrier-based combat strike aircraft.

—-I profiled Fluorotronics, an 11-year-old startup in Vista, CA, founded by Russian immigrant Olga Sharts to commercialize a specialized type of laser spectroscopy that is tuned to the unique spectroscopic signal of carbon-fluorine bonds. Such bonds are found only in manmade products, including pharmaceutical products. Carbon-fluorine bonds also are used to make Teflon and other advanced materials, including microelectronics, semiconductors, chemicals, and aerospace materials.

Wade described how innovation and entrepreneurship have become the bywords for efforts in various quarters to drive economic resurgence in the United States. He noted the Startup America initiative launched by the White House, an unexpected source of funding for the Y Combinator venture incubator program, an expansion of the TechStars operation, and much more.

—Mountain View, CA-based Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU) has developed more than 15 mobile apps that are focused on its target market of small business and consumers since 2008, when CEO Brad Smith set a new strategy that calls for developing “connected services” software. The latest example is SnapTax, a mobile tax-filing app that came out of the company’s San Diego-based TurboTax division.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ: [[ticker: QCOM]]) named six finalists for its Q Prize competition for early stage startups focused in wireless technologies or services. The finalists, who were selected from North America, Europe, China, India, Israel, and South Korea, will get to compete at Demo to win the innovation incentive prize.

Scale Venture Partners co-founder Kate Mitchell, who also is this year’s chair at the National Venture Capital Association, predicted that venture investing in 2011 will be more like the mid-1980s than the mid-1990s—or the mid-2000s. IPOs, M&As, and pre-money valuations have all been gradually increasing.

Verve Wireless, which is based in Encinitas, CA, and Bethesda, MD, acquired a Washington D.C. mobile advertising technology company called Deconstruct Media. No financial terms were disclosed.

—Jackson, MS-based SmartSynch launched a wireless communications platform for utility smart grids, giving San Diego’s Qualcomm a fresh opportunity to develop a vast new market for its Brew MP mobile operating system.

—San Diego’s Maxwell Technologies (NASDAQ: MXWL) said it reached settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice following an investigation into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other securities laws. The company, which makes ultracapacitor energy storage cells, agreed to pay $6.35 million to settle civil charges with the SEC, and $8 million to resolve criminal charges with the Justice Department.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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