Google has set up a multi-million dollar fund which it says will become its primary means of making venture-style investments.
Google Ventures expects to invest $100 million over the next 12 months, focusing on internet, software, clean energy and health startups.
The investments will range from seed funds to tens of millions of dollars, the Google Ventures site says.
The VC arm will co-invest with other venture funds, and will not require companies to have a commercial arrangement with Google, or to use Google products, in order to invest.
Google has not ruled out acquiring some of the invested-in companies.
Investments will be vetted by entrepreneurs Bill Maris and Rich Miner. Google will also draw on the experience of its employees to help find suitable investments.
Maris and Miner acknowledged on the official Google blog that times are tough economically, but said that "if anything, we think the current downturn is an ideal time to invest in nascent companies that have the chance to be the 'next big thing'."