Gene scientist Craig Venter has announced plans to develop next-generation biofuels from algae in a $600m (�370m) partnership with oil giant Exxon Mobil. His company, Synthetic Genomics Incorporated (SGI), will develop fuels that can be used by cars or aeroplanes without the need for any modification of their engines. Exxon Mobil will provide $600m over five years with half going to SGI. "Meeting the world's growing energy demands will require a multitude of technologies and energy sources," said Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil. "We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low-net carbon emission transportation fuel." Algae are an attractive way to harvest solar energy because they reproduce themselves, they can live in areas not useful for producing food and they do not need clean or even fresh water. In addition, they use far less space to grow than traditional biofuel crops such as corn or palm oil. Craig Venter, who is best known for his role in sequencing the human genome, said the new partnership was the largest single investment in trying to produce biofuels from algae but said the challenge to creating a viable next-generation fuel was the ability to produce it in large volumes. "This would not happen without the oil industry stepping up and taking part," he said. "The challenges are not minor for any of us but we have the combined teams and scientific and engineering talents to give this the best chance of success." The research programme will begin with the construction of a new test facility in San Diego, where Venter says different techniques to grow and optimise algae will be tested. These will include open ponds as well as bioreactors, where the algae are grown in sealed tubes. "We will be trying out these different approaches � using newly-discovered natural algae to test the best approaches we can come up with to go into a scale-up mode."