underwater opportunity

Houston robotics company moves on to next phase of U.S. Marine Corps program

Nauticus Robotics's multimillion-dollar project with the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit is moving forward. Photo via nauticusrobotics.com

A Houston company that announced a partnership with the United States Defense Innovation Unit has revealed its moving on to the next milestone.

Nauticus Robotics Inc., which went public last September and trades under NASDAQ ticket KITT, announced today that it has completed the first phase of its Amphibious Autonomous Response Vehicle, called the Terranaut, with the DIU. The Houston-based company has developed a fleet of autonomous robots using artificial intelligence for underwater data collection.

“The Defense Innovation Unit has been a fantastic partner," says Nicolaus Radford, founder and CEO of Nauticus, in a news release. "They leverage our mature catalog of technologies we’ve developed from our outside investments and apply those to pressing problems facing the Services."

The multi-million dollar contract with the Marine Corps Systems Command and the Office of the Deputy DoD CTO for Mission Capabilities, which originally awarded last October, tasked Nauticus with adapting its technology to become "a new autonomous mine countermeasure robot for use in surf zones and beach areas," according to the company. The robot's plans include the ability to both swim and walk onto the beach.

The tech also includes Nauticus's ToolKITT software, plus more advanced tools like "machine vision, autonomous mission planning, and acoustic data networking," per the release.

“We believe this partnership will be instrumental in not only furthering the U.S. Marine Corps’ integration of cutting-edge robotics capabilities, but ultimately helping to keep servicemembers out of harm’s way,” Radford continues.

Nauticus, which was originally founded in 2014 as Houston Mechatronics Inc., recently announced its European expansion earlier this year,

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Building Houston


This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Ramanan Krishnamoorti of UH, Valerie Tompson of SWAN Impact Network, Evan Erickson of TexPower Technologies. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from battery tech to impact inveesting — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti,  as vice president of energy and innovation at University of Houston

Natalie Harms

Ramanan Krishnamoorti has had a varied career in academia, from an engineering professor to nanotech research. While he never made the transition from researcher to entrepreneur, he managed to snag a CEO title at the university about a decade ago: Chief energy officer.

Since then his role has expanded to include advancing UH's innovation of all kinds — from health tech to the arts — as vice president of energy and innovation at UH. In his role, he oversees the UH Technology Bridge, a lab and coworking space for tenants just a short drive away from UH's main campus, as well as future plans, like a new central campus hub for innovation that's in its early stages of development.

"What we really need at the university today is to bring innovation — which tech transfer is a piece of — and connect that to real-world challenges to deliver what the world needs, which is talented folks delivering new innovative, entrepreneurial, or intrapreneurial programs," Krishnamoorti says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Read more.

Valerie Tompson, Houston chapter lead for SWAN Impact Network

Austin-founded SWAN Impact Network has entered the Houston innovation ecosystem. Photo courtesy of SWAN

SWAN Impact Network, which focuses on funding early-stage, impact-driven startups, announced that Houston will be its next market expansion. Founded in 2016 as the Southwest Angel Network, the organization has grown from several investors to over 80 across Texas. The investors, who meet virtually, range from former entrepreneurs, seasoned investors, and first time angels.

Valerie Tompson, who's serving as the Houston market lead, is an example of someone who was drawn to SWAN's mission, even though she had never invested in startups before.

"I was intrigued by the idea of being able to invest in companies that are making a difference in the world — and it's not a charitable donation," she says, explaining that joining a network allowed for her to learn the ropes and understand the process. Read more.

Evan Erickson, co-founder and CEO of TexPower

A Houston startup founded off research out of a Texas university has cut the ribbon on its new lab space. Photo courtesy of TexPower

TexPower EV Technologies Inc. celebrated the opening of its 6,000-square-foot laboratory and three-ton-per-year pilot production line at a ribbon-cutting event last week. The Northwest Houston site is located at 6935 Brittmoore Rd.

TexPower spun out of the University of Texas at Austin in 2019. The company was co-founded by Erickson with CTO Wangda Li and Board Chairman Arumugam Manthiram, a professor at UT whose lithium-ion battery research fuels the foundation of the company.

“We want to point out how lucky we are — as a company and as scientists," Erickson says at the ribbon cutting event. "It’s not common that you see something you work on in academia turn into something that can become commercially successful.” Read more.

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