Federal funding, startup pitches, and more of the most-read energy tech articles from the year. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, InnovationMap is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston innovation. As the energy capital of the world, Houston has its fair share of energy tech stories that trended among readers — including the launch of EnergyCapitalHTX, InnovationMap's sister publication. Be sure to click through to read the full story.

Houston-based battery innovators receive $4M in federal funding

Houston-based Zeta Energy has fresh funding from the government. Image via Zeta Energy

Houston-based Zeta Energy announced this week that it was selected to receive $4 million in federal funding for the development of efficient electric vehicle batteries.

The funds come from the U.S. Department of Energy's ARPA-E Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living, or EVs4ALL, program, which aims to increase the number of EVs on the roads by boosting the country’s supply chain of affordable, convenient, reliable and safe batteries.

Zeta Energy is one of 12 groups in the U.S. to receive funding from the program, which awarded $42 million in total.

“Electric vehicle sales in America have tripled since the start of this Administration and by addressing battery efficiency, resiliency and affordability, the projects announced today will make EVs attractive to even more drivers,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement released earlier this week. “This is a win-win for our efforts to fight climate change and power America’s clean transportation future with technologies produced by researchers and scientists right here at home.”

Continue reading the article from January.

8 energy tech startups recognized at Houston's CERAWeek pitch competition

Here's what startups took home wins at CERAWeek. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Over 200 startups participated in CERAWeek this year, and 18 of those companies pitched at a Greater Houston Partnership event.

The Houston Energy Transition Initiative, an initiative to promote Houston's work within the energy transition, hosted its second annual HETI Energy Ventures Competition at CERAWeek Innovation Agora. The competition was divided into four categories. The first batch of startups consisted of five companies from the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, or TEX-E, a collaboration with Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and universities across Texas.

The winning startups shared $50,000 of prizes, sponsored by TEX-E. Houston-based Helix Earth Technologies — which has developed high-speed, high-efficiency filter systems derived from technology originating at NASA — won both the first place prize and fan favorite for the category. Helix's co-founders, Rawand Rasheed and Brad Husick from Rice University, walked away with $25,000 in prizes

Continue reading the article from March.

Gow Media announces new energy transition media platform backed by GHP

Houston, we have a new energy transition news outlet. Photo via Getty Images

Houston has historically been home to a significant portion of the energy industry. Now, among the energy transition, the city has plans to hold a big role in that sector too, and a news outlet is emerging to cover that journey.

Houston-based Gow Media, a multi-platform media company and the parent company of InnovationMap, CultureMap, SportsMap, and ESPN Radio 97.5FM and 92.5FM, announced its plans to launch energycapitalhtx.com.

“Houston is aligning some of the city’s best and brightest to lead the energy transition,” says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media. “We have been deeply impressed by the efforts of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Houston Energy Transition Initiative and are excited for EnergyCapitalHTX to be the voice of the energy transition.”

Continue reading the article from March.

Report: Texas is the best place to lead hydrogen economy

According to a new report, the existing energy infrastructure of Texas makes it a great spot to lead the development of the hydrogen economy. Photo via Getty Images

All signs point to Texas leading the development of a hydrogen market, says one new report out of Rice University.

The Baker Institute for Public Policy released a new report this week about the hydrogen economy and the role Texas will play in it. According to the experts, Texas’ legacy energy industry — as well as its geology — makes it an ideal hub for hydrogen as an energy source. Ken Medlock, senior director of the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies, and Shih Yu (Elsie) Hung, research manager at the center, wrote the report.

“Texas is in a very advantageous position to play a leading role in driving hydrogen market growth, but the evolution of policy and market structure will dictate whether or not this comes to pass,” write the co-authors.

Continue reading the article from February.

Fast-growing startup with carbon-free solution sets up pilot plant in Houston

The opening of the pilot plant marks the debut of Cemvita’s eCO2 business as a wholly owned subsidiary. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Cleantech startup Cemvita has set up a pilot plant in its hometown of Houston to develop technology for converting carbon emissions as feedstock to make products like fertilizer, plastics, methane, and fuel.

The opening of the pilot plant marks the debut of Cemvita’s eCO2 business as a wholly owned subsidiary. The term eCO2 refers to equivalent carbon dioxide, or a way to measure a combination of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

With a capacity of more than 14,000 gallons, the plant is producing eCO2 oil, an alternative to soybean oil. The company already is shipping samples of eCO2 products to customers, including renewable-fuel companies and plastics manufacturers.

Continue reading the article from April.

Ambyint has fresh funding and a new main office. Photo via Getty Images

Canadian energy company secures Houston funding, relocates HQ

money moves

An AI-powered energy tech company has raised additional funding and relocated it's main office to Canada.

Ambyint, a Canadian company that's had a Houston presence for a few years, has announced its latest round of funding and new headquarters. The software company provides energy customers with its AI-powered production and artificial lift optimization platform.

The funding comes from existing investors, Houston-based Mercury and Montrose Lane, plus two new investors, BDC Capital and Accelerate Fund III. The undisclosed amount of funding will go toward customer growth, hiring, and new enhancements to the technology, including expanding emissions mitigation capabilities.

"We have the wind in our sails and are extremely proud to see this transaction close,” Benjamin Kemp, CEO of Ambyint, says in a news release. “This investment allows us to double down on the energy market and further our AI-enabled optimization platform. Validation from our customers, talented employees, and investors is most welcome as we continue to scale.”

"Given the uncertainty in the venture capital market, attracting new investors like BDC Capital and Accelerate Fund III, who have followed Ambyint’s journey for several years, demonstrates how far we have come and the exciting future ahead of us," Kemp, who's served as CEO since 2021, adds.

The company also announced its new main office in Calgary. Previously, the Houston office operated as the company's headquarters.

Mercury, which has invested in the company since 2017, contributed to the company's series B in 2020, along with Montrose Lane (née Cottonwood Venture Partners).

“We have had the benefit of seeing the Ambyint platform and team develop over the past six years," says Mercury Managing Director Adrian Fortino says in the release. "We believe they are now poised to dramatically expand their industry footprint and improve customer emissions.”

Ambyint continues to add sustainability and emissions-related functions platform, including CO2 and methane emission tracking and mitigation.

"Utilizing advanced AI, Ambyint is addressing a significant opportunity in upstream oil and gas by increasing production while reducing GHG emissions," Joseph Regan, managing partner from BDC Capital’s Innovation Venture Fund, says in the statement. "They are leading the charge between their impressive technological progress and respected, industry-leading customers. We believe Ambyint’s AI software will be the standard operating procedure in this sector."

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Here's what energy transition companies stood out to Rice Alliance's experts. Photo via Rice Alliance

10 startups named most-promising in energy tech at Houston conference

rising stars

At the 20th annual Energy Tech Venture Forum presented by Rice Alliance for technology and Entrepreneurship, 11 startups scored recognition from the event's investors who evaluated over 90 early-stage energy transition companies.

"The selection process was both exhilarating and challenging given the incredible ideas we've seen today," says Jason Sidhu, director of information services business engagement at TC Energy, who announced the top companies. "I want to extend my gratitude to every company that participate din this year's Energy Tech Venture Forum. Your commitment to solving energy problems and pursuing ambitions ideas is truly commendable."

In addition to the top 10 most-promising companies, the event's attendees decided the people's choice pick out of the 50 or so pitching companies. The winner of that recognition was Calgary, Alberta-based Galatea Technologies, which has created a tech platform to enhance workflows for operational, financial, and environmental performance.

The top companies, according to the Rice Alliance experts and investors, were:

  • Circular economy startup, Polystyvert. Based in Montreal, the company has created a unique dissolution recycling process that creates a material that can contribute to cutting carbon emissions by up to 90 percent.
  • United Kingdom-based Mirico provides a tracking technology to its customers to measure climate gases (like methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ammonia), across areas up to half a square mile and in all conditions.
  • Protein Evolution, from New Haven, Connecticut, taps into a combination of green chemistry and enzyme technology to break down synthetic polymers.
  • Another Canadian company, Ayrton Energy, based in Calgary, created a liquid organic H2 carrier (LOHC) storage technology presents an opportunity for large, scalable and efficient transport of H2 over long distances.
  • Also representing New Haven, Connecticut, Carbon Loop is on a mission to make carbon capture and conversion scalable through carbon dioxide electrolysis using a proprietary catalyst to convert captured carbon dioxide into methanol.d
  • Based in London, Mobilus Labs has designed a new way for frontline communication with an in-helmet hardware and software solution. software solution designed for the frontline workforce.
  • 1s1 Energy, based in California, is working on producing low-cost green hydrogen by creating new materials to unlock unprecedented electrolyzer efficiency, durability, and more.
  • From Skokie, Illinois, Numat is specializing in solutions within Metal-organic framework (MOF) research to enhance the process of separating the hazardous chemicals negatively impacting human health and the environment.
  • Mantel, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a molten borate technology to capture CO2 in a new and efficient way.
  • The lone Houston-based company, Mars Materials is working to produce acrylonitrile using CO2 and biomass to enable decarbonization applications in carbon fiber and wastewater treatment.
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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Currently, methane leak detection requires human evaluation. With this innovative new company's tech, this process can be automated. Photo via Getty Images

Houston startup advances in Chevron's unique business accelerator

scaling up

A Houston startup that is developing a technology to detect methane leaks has moved on to phase two in Chevron's unique business accelerator.

Aquanta Vision Technologies, a Houston-based climate-tech startup, was selected to participate in the scale-up phase of Chevron Studio, a Houston program that matches entrepreneurs with technologies to turn them into businesses. Aquanta's computer vision software completely automates the identification of methane in optical gas imaging, or OGI. The technology originated from Colorado State University and CSU STRATA Technology Transfer.

Babur Ozden, a tech startup entrepreneur, along with Marcus Martinez, the lead inventor and Dan Zimmerle, co-inventor and director of METEC at CSU Energy Institute, came up with the technology to identify the presence and motion of methane in live video streams. Currently, this process of identifying methane requires a human camera operator to interpret the images. This can often be unreliable in the collection of emissions data.

Babur Ozden is the founder of Aquanta Vision. Photo via LinkedIn

Aquanta’s technology requires no human intervention and is universally compatible with all OGI cameras. Currently, only about 10 percent of the 20.5 million surveys done worldwide use this type of technology as it is extremely expensive to produce. Ozden said he hopes Aquanta will change that model.

“What we are doing — we are democratizing this feature, this capability, independent of the camera make and model,” Ozden tells EnergyCapital.

Aquanta’s software will be downloadable from App stores to the technician’s computers or phones.

“Our goal is to eliminate the absolute reliance of human interpretation and to give operators a chance to make detections faster and more accurately,” Ozden says.

“Our ultimate ambition is to reduce our footprint.” he continues. “Companies like Chevron and other leading players in the oil and gas industry are becoming much more committed (to reducing emissions)."

Aquanta will now test its software under various scenarios and develop an early commercial version of the product. In the next and final phase of the program, the company will begin marketing the technology for commercial use.

The goal of Chevron Studio is to take innovative new technologies out of the labs at universities and to scale them up to commercial ventures. The company takes the intellectual property developed at these labs and provides a platform to match entrepreneurs with the technology. The program provides funding to take the technologies from the very beginning to pilot and field trials. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, manages Chevron Studio and works closely with the entrepreneurs to guide them through the program.

Gautam Phanse, the strategic relations manager for Chevron Technology Ventures says he was impressed with Ozden’s background as an entrepreneur and in the technology he brought to the table.

“We are looking at experienced entrepreneurs. People who can take an idea and stand on their own and develop it into a business,” he tells EnergyCapital.

Earlier this year, Phanse spoke to InnovationMap about Chevron Studio and its mission to match entrepreneurs with promising technologies coming out of universities and labs. He said the current focus areas for Chevron Studio are: carbon utilization, hydrogen and renewable energy, energy storage systems and solutions for circular economy.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

A Houston energy professional shares his advice for those looking for a job in climate tech. Photo via Getty Images

5 tips for people looking to expand their career into climate tech, according to this Houston expert

guest column

If hard times build strong people, then extreme weather events build strong climate tech ecosystems. Nobody knows this conventional wisdom better than Houston.

The past six years alone have seen the second costliest natural disaster in United States history (Hurricane Harvey), the longest power outage in Texas history (Winter Storm Uri), and this June, a heat wave that pushed the ERCOT power grid to record levels.

Combine our ever more volatile climate with a post-COVID-19 reckoning of what it means to work for what you believe in, and you get a recipe for the most significant workforce shift the world has ever seen. This workforce shift rules in favor of climate tech, and it will largely target those who’ve grown up, come of age and started their careers in the midst of this increasing volatility. Climate tech will no longer be considered a standalone industry; it will be baked into all existing industries, and those that don’t accept it will die.

I’m proud to be a climate optimist, but I’m also a realist. The truth is no matter what we do, our volatile climate is going to get worse before it gets better. But if extreme weather events build strong climate tech ecosystems, I can live with that.

To students and young professionals considering a jump into climate tech: There is no better place to be right now. Here are five things to keep in mind as you make that jump.

1. Meet as many people from diverse backgrounds working on as many different things as you can. You will likely feel awkward at first, especially if you don’t naturally gravitate toward conferences and happy hours. At the risk of sounding trite, just treat every stranger like a friend you haven’t met yet. Some of us could probably use more friends anyway.

2. The advice in the self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally published in 1936, is timeless. Possibly the most useful (and most obvious) point is this: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Whenever possible, repeat your new friends’ names when you meet them. Especially if you’re seeking a business development, sales or other external-facing role, perfecting this point should be your Holy Grail.

3. Depending on how new you are to energy and climate tech, you’ll hear lots of unfamiliar lingo. Ask questions, take note of what you still don’t get, and do your best to fill in the gaps on the side. Eventually, acronyms will become your best friend. For example: Have you seen what the ITC and the PTC from the IRA will do to the LCOE of PV according to NREL? IYKYK.

4. Coachability is key. You may feel like you’re getting rejected 99 percent of the time, but the way you respond to and learn from those experiences will ensure the other one percent makes all the difference. At the end of the day, climate tech is so vast that it’s impossible to become an expert in everything, and that’s okay. We may not know what’s going on 70 percent of the time, but I’ll take a .300 batting average any day.

5. It may be impossible to become an expert in everything, but you should proactively learn as much as you can, especially given how quickly the ecosystem is expanding. If you’re not embarrassed by how little you knewone year ago, two years ago or even five years ago, then you’re probably not trying hard enough.

These are only five of my takeaways over the past few years and I’ll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go in implementing them. In a way, that’s what makes this journey what it is. I just can’t wait to see what we build.

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Ryan Davidson is business development lead for CalWave Power Technologies, a California-based company and Greentown Houston member that's focused on converting ocean waves’ hydrokinetic energy into reliable electricity. This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Meet the new arrivals at Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Greentown Labs

9 startups join Houston climatech accelerator to tackle carbon capture, energy efficiency, and more

new to hou

Greentown Labs closed out the second quarter with the addition of 17 startups, and just over half are collaborating with the Houston location.

The technology represented by the new additions span the industries of energy, agriculture, and manufacturing, with a focus on carbon capture, electrical usage efficiency, and resource accessibility.

Carbon capture

Two of the newest Houston members, Capture6 and C-Quester, are also part of the Carbon2Value Initiative, a global partnership between the Greentown Labs, Urban Future Lab in New York, and Fraunhofer, headquartered in Michigan. C2V focuses on accelerating technology solutions that capture carbon dioxide for conversion into value-adding products and services.

Similar to the way a sponge is moistened and later wrung out, C-Quester pulls CO2 from flue gas into a temperature-sensitive material that can be heated later to release carbon, making the storage and transport of CO2 easier to manage.

Capture6 uses CO2 pulled from the atmosphere through their Direct Air Capture technology in combination with water treatment methodologies to remove excess salinity from saltwater and brine, resulting in greater freshwater recovery, usable elements for a variety of industries, and carbonates transformed into mineralized form to prevent continued carbon emissions.

Energy efficiency

The Helix MICRA filters created by Helix Earth Technologies can remove CO2 from power plants and other pollutants commonly encountered in the shipping industry. The filtering technology, initially developed for NASA, also dehumidifies air conditioning systems for more efficient energy use.

H2PRO uses its water-splitting technology, E-TAC, to produce green hydrogen in a two-step process that requires less energy to perform than the more common process of electrolysis with improved safety aspects.

Steam production and distribution get an upgrade with Imperium Technologies, the first electromechanical solution that enables previously unseen systems monitoring for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, on average.

With a keen focus on predictive insights, eologix deploys smart sensors to give operators advance warning of situations that could cause rotor imbalances to keep wind turbines – and the energy they produce – optimized.

Resource accessibility

NW NA supports the goals of stability, predictability, and accessibility of electric-powered vehicle use with its high-power EV-charging station, mobile electricity storage units, and renewable energy measurement and forecasting tool.

From the Metaversity under development, to its oil and gas line leak detection systems, Kauel goes all-in on AI for its clients, even helping children with kinesthetic rehabilitation through augmented and virtual reality programs.

Finally, SkyH2O brings fresh, clean water to areas with limited access to existing infrastructure or natural water resources for commercial, military, and industrial use.

Another eight startups join the cohort named above as members of the Greentown Labs Boston location: Capro-X, Carbon2Stone, Cottage, Dioxycle, enaDyne, Global Algae Innovations, Terrafixing, and Thola.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.