European conglomerates have been on an extended shopping spree in the states, thanks to the favorable exchange rates with the U.S. dollar. Total, the French oil and gas giant, has made a bid to buy 60% of SunPower, the high-efficiency solar manufacturer from California. Meanwhile, Switzerland's ABB has spent over $5.2 billion on four U.S. companies in the past year and plunked money into startups including Ecotality and Power Assure.
Europe specializes in sprawling conglomerates that have deep pockets and decades of experience, but those companies can't always deliver cutting-edge technology. The U.S. has a surfeit of innovative startups, but most of them need money and connections -- a European sugar daddy.