Three of Houston's mayoral candidates shared the stage at Tech Rodeo to talk about how they would lead the city toward greater success within the innovation space. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

It's an election year in Houston, and one of the big topics on the minds of the candidates is how to continue the momentum of Houston's developing innovation ecosystem.

Houston Exponential put three of the declared candidates on the stage yesterday to ask them about their vision for Houston on the final day of Houston Tech Rodeo 2023. HX CEO Natara Branch moderated the discussion with Chris Hollins, Lee Kaplan, and Amanda K. Edwards. Each candidate addressed issues from diversity and equity, the energy transition, and more.

Missed the conversations? Here are a few overheard moments and highlights of the panel.

“It’s integral to our vision for the future of Houston that this is a place where small businesses, entrepreneurs, and creatives can thrive. We want to grow this economy to be one of the strongest economies in the United States — and we know that startups and small businesses are the powerhouse for that.”

— says Chris Hollins, who explains that he's a small business owner himself and also served as interim Harris County Clerk from June 2020 to November 2020, overseeing the 2020 United States presidential election in Harris County.

“Houston has an energy-centric community, and a lot of people who have money have gotten too comfortable investing in just oil and gas. … I understand how hard it is to run a business, and I understand (it) from representing entrepreneurs and investors.”

— says Lee Kaplan, a founding partner at law firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka LLP.

“One of the things that’s important in a leader is making sure that they understand your issues, but most importantly that they can execute. That has been something that has been chief in concert in the way that I have served in public service, but of course the way that I’ve been a part of the startup economy.“

— says Amanda K. Edwards, who contributed to the establishment of the city’s tech and innovation task force as an at-large Houston City Council member. The task force resulted in the creation of HX Venture Fund and the Innovation District, she explains.

“When we think about cities that have done this really well — Silicon Valley, The Bay Area, Boston, Austin — what’s key in many of those cities is institutions around education. … We have to lean into Rice University and the University of Houston — making these centers for talent, excellence, and innovation so that we’re developing the thinkers, the engineers, the creators of the future, and then we’re giving your businesses a crop of new hires.”

— Hollins says responding to a question about Houston's challenges.

“The thing that I think is the most important for the city is to be rigorous with what we do. We’re not going to get around the fact that it’s hot and we have mosquitos. But we can sell the fact that we have a city that’s improving.”

— Kaplan says on Houston's progress.

“I don’t want to compete or lose to any city in America. When I think about Houston, I’m bullish. I know that we are the place that is home to innovation, and it’s about time that people know us as that."

— Edwards says, referencing how Houston is known nationally for its problems — she gives the example of Hurricane Harvey. “We have major challenges in our city, but we can innovate using our innovation economy to provide answers and solutions to them.”

“Energy has to be a part of our story. We are where we are today because we’re the energy capital of the world. And we know that the energy transition is happening, and if we don’t lean into that, our region stands to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

— Hollins says on the types of emerging tech in Houston.

“You often hear it said that Houston is the most diverse city in the nation, but I pose this challenge: What good is it to be the most diverse if we’re not solving the challenges that diverse communities face? And that includes equity in tech. We have all of the raw ingredients here in the Houston community to make Houston the home of where tech and innovation is diverse and equitable.”

— Edwards says on Houston's diversity and the challenges the city faces.

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16 digital health, medical device companies selected for UK, TMC accelerator

coming to Hou

For the second time, an accelerator backed by the United Kingdom and hosted by Texas Medical Center Innovation has named 16 companies to its new cohort.

In partnership with Innovate UK, TMC named the new cohort companies in an announcement this week. The companies are divided into two categories — digital health and medical device — and cover a wide range of specialties, from diagnostics and AI monitoring to non-surgical management and more.

The accelerator launched last year with its inaugural cohort with the mission of helping companies make their United States expansion by way of the TMC.

"The first cohort of startups in our accelerator program experienced TMC's capabilities in developing and advancing solutions through cross-collaboration with top minds in clinical care, commercialization and innovation," Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for Health Tech at TMC, says in a news release. "We are excited to continue our partnership with Innovate UK and welcome this second cohort to continue our efforts advancing life sciences technologies across the globe."

This year's program begins June 4 and will run through November. According to the TMC, last year's cohort had significant success tapping into the health tech ecosystem in Houston, including engaging with investors, setting up a go-to-market strategy, and making inaugural U.S.-based hires.

“Our Global Incubator Programme selects driven and ambitious innovators looking to scale their technologies globally," adds Jon Hazell, partnership manager for the North America and Global Incubator at Innovate UK. "We are excited for our second cohort of startups to join the programme, supported by the Texas Medical Center accelerator, where world-class mentors and programming will help our entrepreneurs understand and meet the requirements of different markets, and build the necessary partnerships, collaborations, and networks, facilitating their entry into global markets."

The selected medical device companies — and their technologies, as described by the TMC — include:

  • Cytecom – infectious diagnostic test, powered by cutting-edge optical electrophysiology, detects resistant bacteria in just 45 seconds, enabling doctors to prescribe targeted antibiotics in minutes instead of days
  • Heartfelt Technologies Ltd – the future of heart failure telemonitoring an automatic, AI supported, non-contact telemonitoring solution for heart failure patients
  • Neurovalens Ltd – creates wearable neurostimulaton devices that treat a range of conditions in an entirely non-invasive and drug-free way
  • Oxford Medical Products Limited – a proprietary hydrogel pill that acts as a non-surgical, non-pharmacological obesity treatment that will redefine the obesity treatment market
  • Phenutest – a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for urinary tract infection, that confirms infection and appropriate antimicrobial to prescribe within 60 minutes
  • Plexaa – world's first fully wearable, sensor controlled, bra insert that can deliver safe supraphysiological preconditioning to the breast skin the night before surgery at home
  • SolasCure Limited – a wound Gel that acts as a single, effective and easy-to-use solution to overcome the challenges to transform chronic wound care
  • Trueinvivo Limited – a proprietary dosimetry (radiation measurement) system to ensure the precision and accuracy of cancer radiotherapy

The selected digital health companies — and their technologies, as described by the TMC — include:

  • Axon Diagnostics – offers a suite of solutions to support the needs of modern day diagnostic imaging services, supporting happier lives for clinicians and helping deliver better diagnostic care for all
  • Kheiron Medical Technologies – regarded as a world leader in the development of AI-enabled cancer diagnostics and monitoring
  • KiActiv – a technology-enabled digital health model for behaviour change and self-care that rethinks exercise and makes everyday movement an effective personalized medicine for better clinical outcomes
  • Memory Lane Games – turns memories into games, offering care providers a simple, fun dementia engagement app designed to trigger positive memories and improve socialisation with caregivers and people living with dementia
  • NeuroVirt Limited – combines immersive VR, AI and computer vision to gamify rehabilitation and quantify patient impairment and improvement
  • Newton’s Tree – enables healthcare providers to procure, integrate, and monitor third party AI products as part of routine care pathways through its enterprise AI platform
  • SERG Technologies – uses patented sensor technology and artificial intelligence to transform disease management into a continuous, data driven, and patient specific approach for people with Parkinson’s
  • Thymia – leverages speech, video, and behavioral analytics gathered via specially designed video games to diagnose conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD, alongside critical symptoms like fatigue, mood fluctuations, and memory issues, creating novel mental health biomarkers
The partnership between the U.K. and TMC began in 2018 as a biobridge between the two entities. TMC has expanded into new biobridges with other countries — most recently with The Netherlands — and also has a Danish accelerator that's also running its second cohort this summer.

Rice University inks strategic partnership with French research institution

collaboration station

Rice University and Université Paris Sciences & Lettres signed a strategic partnership agreement last week that states that the two institutions will work together on research on some of today's most pressing subject matters.

According to an announcement made on May 13 in Paris, the two schools and research hubs will collaborate on work focused on "fields of energy and climate; quantum computing and artificial intelligence; global health and medicine; and urban futures."

The partnership allows Rice to expand its presence in France, after launching its Rice Global Paris Center about two years ago.

Université PSL consists of 11 top research institutes in France and 2,900 world-class researchers and 140 research laboratories.

“We are honored and excited to partner with Paris Sciences and Lettres University and join forces to advance bold innovation and find solutions to the biggest global challenges of our time,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches said in a statement. “The unique strengths and ambitions of our faculty, students, scholarship and research are what brings us together, and our passion and hope to build a better future for all is what will drive our partnership agenda. Representing two distinct geographic, economic and cultural regions known for ingenuity and excellence, Rice and PSL’s efforts will know no bounds.”

Rice and Université PSL plan to host conferences around the four research priorities of the partnership. The first took place last week at the Rice Global Paris Center. The universities will also biannually select joint research projects to support financially.

“This is a global and cross-disciplinary partnership that will benefit from both a bottom-up, research-driven dynamic and a top-down commitment at the highest level,” PSL President Alain Fuchs said in a statement. “The quality and complementarity of the researchers from PSL and Rice who mobilized for this event give us reason to believe that this partnership will get off to a rapid and productive start. It will offer a strong framework to all the PSL schools for developing collaborations within their areas of strength and their natural partners at Rice.”

Rice launched its Rice Global Paris Center in June 2022 in a historic 16th-century building in Le Marais. At the time it, the university shared that it was intended to support Rice-organized student programs, independent researchers, and international conferences, as well as a satellite and hub for other European research activity.

"Rice University's new home in the Marais has gone from an idea to a mature relative with a robust program of faculty research summits, student opportunities, cultural events and community engagement activities," Caroline Levander, Rice's global Vice President, said at the announcement of the partnership last week.

Click here to learn more about the Global Paris Center.

Last month, University of Houston also signed a memorandum of understanding with Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to focus on hydrogen energy solutions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston jumps significantly on annual list of best places to live in 2024

by the numbers

Things are looking a little brighter for Houston as the city was recently named among the top 100 best places to live in U.S. News and World Report's "Best Places to Live" list for 2024-2025.

Previously, H-Town had shockingly plummeted toward the bottom of the list as No. 140 in the 2023-2024 rankings. But the latest report has placed Houston at No. 97, suggesting substantial improvements over the last year.

U.S. News annually measures 150 top American cities for their livability and ranks them based on four major indexes: quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

New for the 2024-2025 report, U.S. News updated its methodology to analyze city-based data rather than metropolitan area data. Secondly, the report's annual survey decided to place greater weight on a city's "value and job market" while "weights for desirability and quality of life took a slight dip" on the grading scale.

"Rising concerns about career prospects, housing affordability and increased cost of goods and services are reflected in this year’s rankings," said U.S. News loans expert and reporter Erika Giovanetti in a press release. "While quality of life remains the top priority for many Americans, a city’s value and job market are becoming increasingly important for those looking for a place to live."

There's many factors that draw folks to Houston, among them our city's diversity, the highly esteemed schools, top universities, and much more. Houston is also a great place for retirees looking to settle down without compromising on the big city lifestyle. The city truly has something for everyone.

The good news continues: Houston additionally moved up two spots to take No. 8 on the report's Best Place to Live in Texas list for 2024. The Bayou City ranked No. 10 last year.

Elsewhere in Texas
The recent focus on city-based data was likely a major factor that fueled Houston's improvement in the statewide and national rankings, but it also favorably shifted nine other Texas cities.

Austin – which previously ranked No. 40 in last year's rankings – became the only city to represent the Lone Star State among the top 10 best places to live in 2024. The Texas Capital jumped up 31 spots to claim No. 9 nationally, due to its "high desirability and job market scores," the report said.

Three cities in the Rio Grande Valley also ranked higher than Houston, suggesting that South Texas may be a better place to live than East Texas. The border towns of McAllen (No. 48) and Brownsville (No. 87) climbed into the overall top 100 this year after formerly ranking No. 137 and No. 134 last year. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi moved up from No. 132 last year to No. 77 in 2024.

Naples, Florida won the gold medal as the No. 1 best place to live in the U.S. in 2024. Rounding out the top five are Boise, Idaho (No. 2); Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3); Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4); and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 5).

Here's how other Texas cities faired in 2024's Best Places to Live report:

  • No. 62 – El Paso (up from No. 128 last year)
  • No. 89 – San Antonio (up from No. 103 last year)
  • No. 95 – Dallas (up from No. 113 last year)
  • No. 99 – Beaumont (up from No. 131 last year)
  • No. 107 – Killeen (up from No. 122 last year)
The full report and its methodology can be found on realestate.usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.