rising star

Report: Houston ranks in the top 10 life sciences markets in the U.S.

The Bayou City also ranks as the No. 1 life science market in the state. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

Houston has received a big thumbs-up in a new study ranking the country’s top metro areas for life sciences companies to launch or grow.

The study, published by commercial real estate platform CommercialCafe, puts Houston at No. 10 among the top U.S. metros in the life sciences sector and No. 1 in Texas. Boston topped CommercialCafe’s ranking, with Dallas-Fort Worth at No. 16, San Antonio at No. 29, and Austin at No. 37.

For the study, CommercialCafe examined various factors that support the success of a life sciences ecosystem. The study encompassed 45 major metros in the U.S. Among the highlights for Houston:

  • No. 9 ranking for educational attainment, with 733,577 of residents ages 25 year and older holding at least a bachelor’s degree in science, engineering, or an engineering-related field.
  • No. 12 ranking for life sciences projects under development (a little over 817,000 square feet). Overall, the life sciences sector occupies roughly 2.3 million square feet in the Houston area.

Last month, commercial real estate services company CBRE put Houston at No. 13 among the country’s top 25 clusters for life sciences research talent. DFW appeared at No. 16 and Austin at No. 18.

In assessing Houston’s strength in life sciences, CommercialCafe says that “the resilient Texas powerhouse was lifted by the wave of emerging life sciences clusters across the U.S.”

Two major projects are helping Houston maintain that powerhouse status. The Texas Medical Center (TMC) last year unveiled TMC3, a 37-acre, roughly 6 million-square-foot life sciences campus, and Houston-based Hines recently topped out the 270,000-square-foot first phase of the 53-acre Levit Green life sciences district next to TMC.

“Houston is already fortunate to have such a strong healthcare and higher education ecosystem. The TMC3 project stands to be the cornerstone of our regional life sciences strategy. It will create new jobs, [and] advance innovative medical technologies and healthcare solutions,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in 2021.

According to Greater Houston Partnership data, the Houston area is home to Houston has more than 1,760 life sciences companies, hospitals, health care facilities, and research institutions. Collectively, the life sciences and healthcare sectors employ 320,500 people in the region.

Trending News

Building Houston

 
 

UH is now the only college in the country — and the only restaurant facility in Houston — to utilize a robotic food delivery. Photo courtesy of the University of Houston

The University of Houston is taking a bold step — or, in this case, roll — in foodservice delivery. UH's Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership is now deploying a robot server in Eric’s Restaurant at its Hilton College.

Booting up this new service is major bragging rights for the Coogs, as UH is now the only college in the country — and the only restaurant facility in Houston — to utilize a robotic food delivery.

These rolling delivery bots come from the state-of-the-art food service robot called Servi. The bots, created by Bear Robotics, are armed with LiDar sensors, cameras, and trays, and automatically return to their posts when internal weight sensors detect a delivery has been completed.

Not surprisingly, these futuristic food staffers are booting up plenty of buzz at UH.

“People are excited about it,” says Dennis Reynolds, who is dean of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership and oversees the only hospitality program in the world where students work and take classes in an internationally branded, full-service hotel. Launching robot waitstaff at UH as a test market makes sense, he notes, for practical use and larger implications.

The Servi robots deliver food from the kitchen to the table. Photo courtesy of the University of Houston

“Robotics and the general fear of technology we see today are really untested in the restaurant industry,” he says in an announcement. “At Hilton College, it’s not just about using tomorrow’s technology today. We always want to be the leader in learning how that technology impacts the industry.”

Bear Robotics, a tech company founded by restaurant experts and tech entrepreneurs, hosted a Servi showcase at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago earlier this year. After seeing the demo, Reynolds was hooked. UH's Servi robot arrived at Eric’s Restaurant in October.

Before sending the bot to diners' tables, the bot was prepped by Tanner Lucas, the executive chef and foodservice director at Eric’s. That meant weeks of mapping, programming, and — not surprisingly — “test driving” around the restaurant.

Tanner even created a digital map of the restaurant to teach the Servi its pathways and designated service points, such as table numbers. “Then, we sent it back and forth to all of those points from the kitchen with food to make sure it wouldn’t run into anything," he adds.

But does having a robot deliver food create friction between human and automated staff? Not at Eric's. “The robot helps my workflow,” Joel Tatum, a server at Eric’s says. “It lets me spend more time with my customers instead of just chasing and running food.”

Once loaded, the kitchen staff can tell the Servi robots where to take the dishes. Photo courtesy of the University of Houston

Reynolds believes robots will complement their human counterparts and actually enhance the customer experience, even in unlikely settings.

“Studies have been conducted in senior living facilities where you might think a robot wouldn’t be well received, but it’s been just the opposite,” Reynolds says. “Those residents saw the change in their lives and loved it.”

To that end, he plans to use Servi bots in other UH venues. “The ballroom would be a fantastic place to showcase Servi – not as a labor-saving device, but as an excitement generator,” Reynolds notes. “To have it rotating through a big event delivering appetizers would be really fun.”

Critics who denounce robot servers and suggest they will soon displace humans are missing the point, Reynolds adds. “This isn’t about cutting our labor costs. It’s about building our top-line revenues and expanding our brand as a global hospitality innovator,” Reynolds says. “People will come to expect more robotics, more artificial intelligence in all segments of hospitality, and our students will be right there at the forefront.”

Servi bots come at a time of dynamic growth for Hilton College. A recent rebrand to “Global Hospitality Leadership” comes as the college hotel is undergoing a $30 million expansion and renovation, which includes a new five-story, 70-room guest tower. The student-run Cougar Grounds coffeehouse reopened this semester in a larger space with plenty of updates. The neighboring Eric’s Club Center for Student Success helps with recruitment and enrollment, undergraduate academic services, and career development.

“To be the first university in the country to introduce robotics in the dining room is remarkable,” Reynolds adds. “There are a lot of unique things we’re doing at Hilton College.”

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Trending News