More room for activities

Accenture to double the size of its Houston innovation hub

Accenture is building out the floor that houses its Houston innovation hub in order to accomodate for its growing client base and staff. Courtesy of Accenture

When Brian Richards, managing director at Accenture, launched the company's Houston innovation hub, he had a team of about a half dozen and 13,500 square feet of space. Now, his crew has surpassed a hundred people, and it's about time the hub's space grows as well.

Accenture is building out the rest of the floor the hub currently resides on. After this process, which is currently ongoing, the hub will be nearly 30,000 square feet.

"Since we've launched, we've been fully booked," Richards tells InnovationMap. "We've had more than 400 workshops with various companies — from both here in Houston and globally."

The first phase of the expansion will allow for Richards and his team to better provide clients — usually large companies — with their services, which is everything from current design thinking to software development services. Construction is expected to be completed later this year.

However, the second phase of this growth project includes the creation of Houston's ICS Cyber Fusion Center to address Accenture clients' growing demand for cybersecurity within industrial capabilities. Currently, the timeline for phase two has not been defined, Richards says.

Accenture's Houston innovation hub hosts its clients with workshops that allow for strategic brainstorming for innovative solutions to problems occurring at the company or within the industry. Most of the hub's clients are within the energy industry. After identifying the problems and coming up with solutions, the hub's team members are able to offer engineering and design services from prototypes to scaling up and implementation, even passing off the client to Accenture's wider scope of services.

"It's a strong recognition of how digital innovation continues to thrive here in Houston and the role Accenture has had in helping develop that ecosystem and supporting it through the innovation hub," Richards says.

Accenture's Houston innovation hub regularly hosts business executives for workshops that allow for hands-on digital technology discovery.Courtesy of Accenture

The University of Houston campus has 30 new members — self-driving, food-delivering robots. Photo courtesy of UH

For a small delivery fee of $1.99, students, faculty, and staff across the University of Houston campus can now get their lunch delivered by self-driving robots.

Thirty of San Francisco-based Starship Technologies' autonomous delivery robots now roam the campus thanks to a partnership with New York-based Chartwells Higher Education. The Houston campus is the first to roll out robotic food deliveries.

"This revolutionary delivery method will make it more convenient for the campus community to take advantage of our diverse dining program from anywhere on campus while expanding the hours of operation," says Emily Messa, associate vice president for administration, in a news release. "By opening our campus to this innovative service, which is paid for by the customers, the university didn't have to spend any money purchasing the technology, yet we're enhancing our food delivery capabilities."

Through the Starship Deliveries app, which is available on iOS and Android, users can select from 11 dining institutions and then identify where they are on campus. The platform allows the user to track the progress, and the device can hold up to 20 lbs of food and has the space for about three shopping bags of groceries.

"This increases our capacity to reach more customers, and I expect the robots will quickly become part of campus life," says David Riddle, Chartwells resident district manager, in a news release. (Chartwells manages UH Dining). "Robot delivery will also grow opportunities for UH Dining employees by increasing service hours and growing sales. It has also created additional jobs for students dedicated specifically to servicing the autonomous robots. It's an important advancement for foodservice at UH."

Using machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors, the company's robots have driven over 350,000 miles and completed over 150,000 deliveries. The Starship robots "can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow," per the release.

"Robotic delivery is affordable, convenient and environmentally friendly," says Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development for Starship, in the release. "We're excited to start offering students, staff and faculty at Houston delivery within minutes when they need it most."