green for green

Texas to get millions from infrastructure bill for environmental fixes

The Texas high-speed rail just got a boost. Photo courtesy of JR Central

On November 5, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, legislation that's anticipated to produce hundreds of thousands of union jobs and transform the U.S. transportation system, with investments in passenger rail, roads, and bridges.

A release from Environment Texas, a grass-roots environmental group, shares some of the many positive effects the package is anticipated to have on Texas' transportation and power infrastructure, and its stores of clean water.

Key environmental provisions include:

  • Lead pipes removal. There are an estimated 270,000 lead service lines still in Texas. Texas is expected to receive $2.9 billion over five years. The state had 6000 sewage overflows in 2019, leading the American Society of Civil Engineers to give Texas' wastewater infrastructure a grade of D.
  • Building electric vehicle charging stations. Texas needs an estimated 12,400 level-2 charging stations and 1,720 level-3 "fast charging stations" by 2030 to meet projected demand. The state will receive $408 million over five years and can apply for $2.5 billion in grant funding.
  • Improve electric grid and power infrastructure. This is obviously something Texas sorely needs, after the great freeze in February 2021 when transmission constraints contributed to blackouts across the state, leading to curtailments of wind and solar energy.
  • New passenger and freight rail. Amtrak has proposed new rail service connecting Houston to Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, while Texas Central is working to build high speed rail between Houston and Dallas. According to Environment Texas, these projects could potentially benefit from the new funding.
  • New public transit. The bill dedicates $39 billion to new public transit projects, described as the largest investment in public transit in history. Texas stands to receive $3.3 billion over five years, with likely recipients to include Houston's MetroNext and Austin's Project Connect.
  • Environmental remediation. Texas has 55 superfund sites, 32 abandoned mines, and 783,000 unplugged oil and gas wells. Oy.
  • More zero- and low-emission buses. At least 13 school districts in Texas have expressed interest in purchasing electric buses. Nine transit agencies in Texas have already, or plan to, purchase electric buses.

The legislature is still working on the Build Back Better Act, a budget reconciliation bill with clean energy tax incentives and other investments that would help the U.S. stall climate change and clean up our environment.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Panelists from the University of Houston and Houston Methodist discussed tech transfer challenges and opportunities for academic innovators. Photo courtesy

Groundbreaking and disruptive innovations across industries are coming out of research institutions, and their commercialization process is very different from other startups.

An expert panel within Technology transfer discussed some of the unique obstacles innovators face as they go from academia into the market — like patenting, funding, the valley of death, and more.

Missed the conversation? Here are eight key moments from the panel that took place at the University of Houston's Technology Bridge on Wednesday, May 19.

This event was hosted by InnovationMap and University of Houston.

“If your technology can immediately impact some industry, I think you should license out your technology. But if you think that the reward is much higher and does not yet match something in the industry, you should go the high risk, high reward path of doing it yourself. That’s a much more challenging. It takes years of work.”

— Hadi Ghasemi, co-founder of Elemental Coatings and Cullen associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, says on how tech transfer usually happens via those two pathways. Ghasemi explains that it also depends on the academic's passion for the product and interest in becoming an entrepreneur.

“There’s a mismatch in that you can have a really clinically impactful technology but still not have money to develop it into a product.” 

— Rashim Singh, co-founder of Sanarentero and a research assistant professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, says on the different priorities from within academia and within the market.

“What I’ve seen is if you know you want to patent something, tell the right people early. Make sure you have the right players involved. Our tech office already has venture, Pharma, etc. partners that can help with the patent process.”

— Ginny Torno, administrative director of innovation and IT clinical systems at Houston Methodist

“You don’t need to be fully transparent about your technology. As a company, you need to have some secret sauce."

— Ghasemi says on the patent and paper publishing process. Academics are used to publishing their research, but when it comes to business, you need to hold some things close to the chest.

“One of the most important piece the UH Tech Bridge has provided is the wet lab space to develop these technologies a little further toward commercialization. … Wet lab is very precious space in Houston specifically because there isn’t much here.”

— Singh says on how important access to lab space is to the entrepreneur.

"“You’re starting to see more and more organizations that have innovation arms. ... There are a lot of focus on trying to make Houston another innovation hub, and I think there is more support now than even a few years ago.”

— Torno says on what's changed over the past few years, mentioning TMC3 and the Ion.

“Try to serve private capital as soon as possible. The grant money comes, and those are good and will help you prove out your technology. But once you have private money, it shows people care about your product.”

— Ghasemi says as a piece of advice for potential tech transfer entrepreneurs.

“The biggest gap is to arrange for funding — federal, private, etc. — to support during the valley of death.”

— Singh says on the struggle research-based startups, especially in drug discovery, faces as they fight to prove out their product and try to stay afloat financially.

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