The Center for Houston's Future is a part of a collaboration that has established a hub for hydrogen innovation. Image via Getty Images

A handful of organizations have joined forces to create a new hub for the advancement of clean hydrogen projects in Texas, Southwest Louisiana, and the surrounding Gulf Coast region.

The HyVelocity Hub announced last week that it is applying for U.S. Department of Energy Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub funding. GTI Energy, The Center for Houston’s Future, The University of Texas at Austin, Air Liquide, and Chevron are among the founding members of the HyVelocity Hub.

“The name ‘HyVelocity’ conveys the idea that we have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate the creation of a clean hydrogen market at the pace needed to meet aggressive decarbonization goals for communities in our nation and around the globe,” says Paula A. Gant, president and CEO of Illinois GTI Energy, in a news release. “We need hydrogen deployment at scale, and this hub will lay the foundation with complete end-to-end demonstrations of an integrated network, match supply and demand regionally or locally, and leverage existing infrastructure to deliver resilient, reliable, and sustainable clean energy.”

The Gulf Coast is already a leader in hydrogen production, per the release, and the region is home to a diverse array of energy resources, including hydrogen production facilities and pipelines, a large base of industrial energy consumers, and a skilled, technical workforce.

“We are pleased to be partnering with our colleagues at GTI Energy in creating HyVelocity Hub as the implementation platform for the shared vision of a Texas-sized global clean hydrogen ecosystem created by our collaborative stakeholder process," says Brett Perlman, CEO of The Center for Houston’s Future in the release. “The realization of this vision will be achieved faster with clean hydrogen hub funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Earlier this year, the Center for Houston's Future released a report that outlined what it will take for Houston to establish itself as a hub for hydrogen innovation as well as the impact this industry can have on Houston's economy. The HyVelocity Hub will engage environmental and social justice organizations in the Gulf Coast region to grow the local economy and create jobs in disadvantaged communities, according to the release.

“Accelerating clean energy technologies is vital to addressing global climate challenges as well as local air quality, and Port Houston is excited to participate in advancing these efforts with the HyVelocity Hub,” says Rich Byrnes, chief infrastructure officer of Port Houston, in the release. “The Hub will benefit trucking and maritime sectors, and our communities tremendously with cleaner transportation, lower emissions, new jobs, and both social and environmental equity."

There's a lot of clean tech potential in hydrogen — and Houston might be the place to lead the way. Image via Getty Images

New report shows why now is the time for Houston to emerge as a hub for hydrogen innovation

clean energy

Houston, known for being the energy capital of the world, has potential to lead innovation within the hydrogen space, and a new report lays out how.

The report, which was released today by the Center for Houston’s Future, is titled "Houston as the epicenter of a global clean hydrogen hub." The information explains how Houston-based assets can be leveraged to lead a global clean hydrogen innovation.

“The Houston region has the talent, expertise and infrastructure needed to lead the global energy transition to a low-carbon world. Clean hydrogen, alongside carbon capture, use, and storage are among the key technology areas where Houston is set up to succeed and can be an example to other leading energy economies around the world,” says Bobby Tudor, chair of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Houston Energy Transition Initiative, in a news release.

Together, GHP's HETI and over 100 experts representing 70 companies and organizations produced the report, along with McKinsey and Company, which donated significant research and economic analyses. Here are some highlights from the study, according to the release:

  • Clean hydrogen production could grow 5 times over current hydrogen production by 2050.
  • The establishment of a clean hydrogen industry could create 180,000 jobs (direct, indirect and induced) statewide, while adding $100 billion to Texas' GDP growth.
  • Globally, a Houston-led clean hydrogen hub could abate 220 million tons (MT) tons of carbon emissions by 2050.

“This report gives additional weight to the already strong case that Houston is uniquely positioned to lead a transformational clean hydrogen hub with global impact,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We can also deliver economic growth, create jobs and cut emissions across Houston and the Gulf Coast, including in underserved communities.”

The Houston region already produces and consumes a third of the nation’s hydrogen, per the release, and has more than 50 percent of the country’s dedicated hydrogen pipelines. These assets can be utilized to accelerate a transition to clean hydrogen, and the report lays out how.

"Using this roadmap as a guide and with Houston’s energy sector at the lead, we are ready to create a new clean hydrogen economy that will help fight climate change as it creates jobs and economic growth,” says Center for Houston’s Future CEO Brett Perlman. “We are more than ready, able and willing to take on these goals, as our record of overwhelming success in energy innovation and new market development shows.”

Check out these conferences, pitch events, networking, and more happening in Houston in the month of April. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for April

where to be

After a very busy March, Houston innovators might need to prepare for another month of networking opportunities. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for April.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

April 5-6 — Energy CEO Summit

Industry leaders and members of the Houston business community will discuss the evolution of the energy sector, Houston's pivotal role, and the critical events driving the change.

Center for Houston's Future CEO Brett Perlman will moderate a panel on Electrical Grid Trends at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 6.

The event is Tuesday and Wednesday, April 5-6, online or at Asia Society Texas Center (1370 Southmore Blvd.). Click here to register.

April 6 — 2022 PVAMU Industry Innovation Collaboration Day

This event is designed to provide an interactive platform for academicians, researchers, students, industries, and government agencies an opportunity to meet and share recent innovations, developments, and technology trends. Collaboration between the university and various industries needs to be nourished to enhance innovation development for the benefit of society.

The event is Wednesday, April 6, from 8:30 am to 5 pm at Prairie View A&M University-MSC Ballroom (155 L.W Minor St.). Click here to register.

April 6 — Enventure "Inspire" Seminar Series - With Dr. Santosh A. Helekar, MD, PhD

The "Inspire" Seminar Series was developed by Enventure to help students learn about the reality of working in the biotech and biomedical fields. The series consists of a number of events starring guest speakers coming from different areas in the biotech and biomedical industries.

This particular event will star Dr. Santosh A. Helekar, M.D., Ph.D. Participants attending this event will learn about the story of Dr. Helekar and his experiences from transitioning from grad school & academia into an inventor & his experiences and current role. In addition, there will be a final Q&A where the audience will be able to ask direct questions to Dr. Helekar.

The online event is Wednesday, April 6, from 6 to 7:30 pm. Click here to register.

April 7 — Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator Kickoff

Together with Greentown Labs and the Urban Future Lab, EPRI and Shell recognize the need to accelerate the development and commercialization of low-carbon technologies required to enable economy-wide decarbonization. As leaders in the utilities and energy industries, respectively, with domain expertise, R&D facilities, and access to global customers, EPRI and Shell are uniquely positioned to lead this transformation in partnership with startups innovating at the cutting edge of low-carbon hydrogen.

The hybrid event is Thursday, April 7, from 5:30 to 8 pm at Greentown Labs (4200 San Jacinto St.) and streaming online. Click here to register.

April 7-9 — 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition

The 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition will be hosted in Houston at the Jones Graduate School of Business. This year, 42 teams have been invited to compete in the 22nd Annual Competition. The finals will be streamed online —watch on Saturday, April 9 on our YouTube. If you're a member, please visit our membership page to register to attend in-person.

The competition is held Thursday through Saturday, April 7-9, at Rice University (6100 Main St.) and streamed online. Click here to register.

April 12 — Energy & Energy 2.0 Council

As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston is the headquarters and the intellectual capital for virtually every segment of the energy industry including exploration, production, transmission, marketing, supply, and technology. This Council explores how Houston's largest industry continues to lead in this critical sector while also advancing innovation that supports the transition to a more efficient and sustainable, low-carbon future that also accommodates global demand growth.

The event is Tuesday, April 12, from 11:30 am to 1 pm at Partnership Tower (701 Avenida de las Americas, Suite 900). Click here to register.

April 12 — Softeq Venture Studio Demo Day (Q1 2022 Cohort)

The Softeq Venture Studio invested $125,000 in cash and services in each of the nine early-stage startups to help them refine their business model, build their technology, and prepare them to scale. In this capstone event, founders have seven minutes each to present their pitch deck, demo their product, outline their ask, and answer questions. And we need you there to evaluate them for investment (or at least support them).

The event is Tuesday, April 12, from 5 to 7:30 pm at The Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 13 — Serving & Selling: Building your Brand, brought to you by Insperity

Find out how to solidify your brand, deliver exceptional service, and take your productivity to the next level, with Pete Hinojosa, CBPA.

The event is Wednesday, April 13, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm at The Cannon (1334 Brittmore Dr.). Click here to register.

April 14 — DivInc Happy Hour: Meet the Sports Tech Cohort

Meet DivInc's Sports Tech cohort at a happy hour hosted at The Ion on April 14. The companies accepted into the new cohort are slated to be announced on April 11.

The event is Thursday, April 14, at 5:30 pm at The Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 19 — State of Technology

The second annual Greater Houston Partnership event features business leaders discussing Houston's growth as a national leader in tech innovation and the many qualities the region possesses that support a robust tech ecosystem. Through a panel discussion, the event will also explore how Houston is uniquely enabling digital transformation across industries including energy, life sciences and healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, and aerospace.

The event is Tuesday, April 19, at 10 am to 1:30 pm at Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar St.). Click here to register.

April 20 — Spring 2022 D2K Showcase

Explore Rice University's D2K students’ end-of-semester projects covering a wide range of topics including computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning applications, web scraping, time series analysis, signal processing and more. Celebrate the impact they are making through data science and interact with Rice students and learn more about their projects in the poster session. Attendees can vote for their favorite project/team to compete for cash prizes.

The event is Wednesday, April 20, from 5 to 7 pm at Duncan Hall at Rice University (6100 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 20 — The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Championships

Join Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and support Rice University student startups at the H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Championships on Wednesday, April 20. Six student finalists will pitch their ventures for the chance to win a share of $75,000+ in equity-free funding. Attendance is open to Rice students, Rice alumni, friends of Rice, and the whole Houston entrepreneurial community. Seats are limited, so get your tickets while you still can.

The event is Wednesday, April 20, from 5:30 to 9 pm at The Anderson-Clarke Center’s Hudspeth Auditorium (6100 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 21 — Greentown Houston's First Anniversary

A year after opening the Houston's first-ever climatetech startup incubator, Greentown Houston is home to over 60 startup members and 20 corporate partners. Join the green tech hub for a celebration of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and innovation, which together with the engineering strength and talent of the region’s energy industry will power Houston’s climate leadership. The day of festivities will include celebratory remarks, lightning pitches from some of our outstanding startups, a member showcase, networking, and more.

The event is Thursday, April 21, from 1 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.) or livestreaming online. Click here to register.

April 27 — Engage VC: Revolution

Revolution is a D.C.-based investment firm focused on investing in entrepreneurs building transformative companies outside of Silicon Valley. With $1.7 billion of capital commitments across portfolio companies including Houston-based Goodfair and relationships in 60+ startup communities, Revolution is dedicated to creating meaningful results for companies outside of the Bay Area. And they are coming to Houston. Join HX Venture Fund to hear Tige Savage, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Revolution Ventures, David Hall, Managing Partner at Revolution's Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and Martin Simoncic, President B2B at PROS discuss Revolution's perspective on venture investing, current and future trends, and how Houston fits in among other topics.

The event is Wednesday, April 27, at 8:30 to 10 am at The Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.


Houston needs to work on developing its life sciences infrastructure, like what the TMC3 project is providing. Courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects

Houston expert: Houston should focus on developing the region's life sciences sector

guest column

The region's health care sector has been Greater Houston's job growth engine over the past few decades — creating new jobs at a rate 75 percent greater than the overall economy — according to research published last month in Center for Houston's Future report, Houston's Economic Future: Health Care.

But data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor suggest that in many ways the economic footprint of our health care sector is not in line with the share of employment that health care commands across the region: While health care accounts for about 12 percent of the region's jobs, it is responsible for just 5.4 percent of Greater Houston's total gross domestic product.

By comparison, our energy sector holds roughly the same share of GDP as health care, but employs about just a fifth the number of employees.

To bridge this gap, Houston should focus on developing the region's life sciences sector, a promising economic development area with a potentially high economic payoff.

The life sciences represent a trillion-dollar plus global industry spanning pharmaceutical development, medical device manufacturing, research and commercialization of biotechnology and more. The employment multiplier — a measure of the economic contribution an occupation has on the greater economy — of a life sciences job exceeds that of generic jobs in health care by 40 percent.

Modeling conducted by the Center suggests a concerted effort to develop the region's life sciences industries compared to a 'business as usual' approach would yield an additional $13.1 billion in GDP and 73,000 jobs by 2036.

Historically, this industry has clustered on the East and West Coasts of the U.S., but recent efforts signal encouraging signs of progress.

Examples include the creation of TMC3 at the Texas Medical Center, a collaborative, multi-institution effort to build a life sciences research campus; the development of Houston's innovation corridor anchored by The Ion; and investment from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), a $6 billion state program to advance cancer research efforts and promote economic development.

Greater Houston has the potential to become the so-called Third Coast if we build on momentum that's starting to take hold.

Findings from our report suggest, however, that more work is needed to advance the life sciences.

This sector continues to grow rapidly—employment in this area rose by 37 percent from 2009 to 2019. Yet, the Center identified troubling data points, including that the number of people working in biotechnology and life sciences research and development declined by 13 percent from 2018 to 2008.

Our research identified several hurdles the region still faces in cultivating our still-nascent life sciences industry. First, Houston is still energy-dominant, with limited investment capital glowing to the life sciences. We must figure out how to attract venture capital, whether it be from Boston, Silicon Valley or elsewhere, to facilitate the growth of our existing biotechnology and life sciences firms and boost the rate of startup formation.

Second, Greater Houston continues to struggle with retaining life sciences talent, businesses and intellectual property. In some of the roughly 50 interviews the Center conducted with health care subject-matter experts, we heard that some businesses in the field relocate from Texas as soon as they begin growing. We believe the region should consider developing a cross-sector push for innovation that includes effectively scaling the research catalyzed by CPRIT.

By adopting a common vision and working together to grow Greater Houston's life sciences cluster, we can boost our economy and better position our health care sector to capitalize on the myriad new health care technologies that will emerge over the next couple decades.

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Steven Scarborough is manager of strategic initiatives at Center for Houston's Future and the principal author of Houston's Economic Future: Health Care.

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Houston innovator on seeing a greener future on built environment

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 162

An architect by trade, Anas Al Kassas says he was used to solving problems in his line of work. Each project architects take on requires building designers to be innovative and creative. A few years ago, Kassas took his problem-solving background into the entrepreneurship world to scale a process that allows for retrofitting window facades for energy efficiency.

“If you look at buildings today, they are the largest energy-consuming sector — more than industrial and more than transportation,” Kassas, founder and CEO of INOVUES, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. “They account for up to 40 percent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.”

To meet their climate goals, companies within the built environment are making moves to transition to electric systems. This has to be done with energy efficiency in mind, otherwise it will result in grid instability.

"Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with energy transition," he explains.

Kassas says that he first had the idea for his company when he was living in Boston. He chose to start the business in Houston, attracted to the city by its central location, affordable labor market, and manufacturing opportunities here.

Last year, INOVUES raised its first round of funding — a $2.75 million seed round — to scale up the team and identify the best markets to target customers. Kassas says he was looking for regions with rising energy rates and sizable incentives for companies making energy efficient changes.

"We were able to now implement our technology in over 4 million square feet of building space — from Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, and very soon in Canada," he says.

Notably missing from that list is any Texas cities. Kassas says that he believes Houston is a great city for startups and he has his operations and manufacturing is based here, but he's not yet seen the right opportunity and adaption

"Unfortunately most of our customers are not in Texas," "A lot of work can be done here to incentivize building owners. There are a lot of existing buildings and construction happening here, but there has to be more incentives."

Kassas shares more about his growth over the past year, as well as what he has planned for 2023 on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Houston SPAC announces merger with Beaumont-based tech company in deal valued at $100M

speaking of spacs

A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has announced the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, and Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly-traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets SportsMap, CultureMap, and InnovationMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

“ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

“We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.

Report: Federal funding, increased life science space drive industry growth in Houston

by the numbers

Federal funding, not venture capital, continues to be the main driver of growth in Houston’s life sciences sector, a new report suggests.

The new Houston Life Science Insight report from commercial real estate services company JLL shows Houston accounted for more than half (52.7 percent) of total funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) across major Texas markets through the third quarter of this year. NIH funding in the Houston area totaled $769.6 million for the first nine months of 2022, exceeding the five-year average by 19.3 percent.

VC funding for Houston’s life sciences sector pales in comparison.

For the first nine months of this year, companies in life sciences raised $147.3 million in VC, according to the report. Based on that figure, Houston is on pace in 2022 to meet or surpass recent life sciences VC totals for most other years except 2021. JLL describes 2021 as an “outlier” when it comes to annual VC hauls for the region’s life sciences companies.

JLL notes that “limited venture capital interest in private industry has remained a challenge for the city’s life sciences sector. Furthermore, it may persist as venture capital strategies are reevaluated and investment strategies shift toward near-term profits.”

While life sciences VC funding has a lot of ground to cover to catch up with NIH funding, there are other bright spots for the sector.

One of those bright spots is the region’s rising amount of life sciences space.

The Houston area boasts more than 2.4 million square feet of space for life sciences operations, with another 1.1 million under construction and an additional 1.5 million square feet on the drawing board, the report says. This includes a soon-to-open lab spanning 25,000 square feet in the first phase of Levit Green.

A second bright spot is the migration of life sciences companies to the region. Two Southern California-based life sciences companies, Cellipoint Bioservices and Obagi Cosmeceuticals, plan to move their headquarters and relocate more than half of their employees to The Woodlands by the first half of 2023, according to the report.

“Houston’s low tax rate and cost of living were primary drivers for the decisions, supported by a strong labor pool that creates advantages for companies’ expansion and relocation considerations,” JLL says.