"Companies and stakeholders across the energy spectrum need to act together and act fast." Photo via Getty Images

Houston is home to some of the nation's largest oil and gas exploration and production firms, making it one of the world’s most important energy capitals. Growing regional support for pioneering clean tech, such as carbon capture, will help achieve the crucial transition to net zero whilst maintaining economic stability, boosting local industries and creating jobs.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), North America and Asia Pacific are expected to hold the largest share in carbon capture capacity. North America’s world-leading carbon capture potential comes as no surprise given the nation’s dominance in oil and gas, and ideal geology for sequestration.

The IEA’s recently published World Energy Outlook 2023 depicts a global market that is in transition. With more companies, world leaders and governments recognizing that a shift towards sustainable energy is both inevitable and transformative, the question is no longer whether we switch to clean energy, but rather how soon the transition can happen.

For every $1 in investment spending on fossil fuels globally, $1.8 is now being spent to develop clean energy, according to the IEA. Although the clean energy market has almost doubled in the past five years to reach an estimated $2.8 trillion in 2023, investment needs to hit $4.2 trillion per year by 2030 to achieve the universally shared goal of net zero. The IEA believes around 1 Gigaton of CO2 must be captured in 2030, rising to 6 Gigatons by 2050 to achieve the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (termed NZE Scenario). This presents a tremendous opportunity for government stakeholders and the business community in Houston to turbocharge the economy and protect the planet from the impact of climate change.

While volatility around the energy market lingers, sustainable technologies remain one of the most dynamic areas of global energy investment. An essential ingredient to its success is bringing on board innovators, entrepreneurs, corporations, and financiers to ensure technology innovation is front and center in facilitating the clean energy transition.

Carbon capture technology is critical, but energy leaders and hard-to-abate industries are under pressure to move faster. To do that, the carbon capture industry must scale up its deployment and increase adoption if hard-to-abate sectors are to address the 30 percent of global CO2 emissions for which they are responsible. Governments have a pivotal role to play in providing financial, regulatory and policy incentives, facilitating a collaborative environment between financiers, hard-to-abate operators, and clean tech companies. While we are moving in the right direction, there is no room for complacency or procrastination given the short timescales for meaningful action.

Over the past several years, Carbon Clean, a global company that is revolutionizing carbon capture, has enjoyed significant expansion in North America. Following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022, we saw huge interest in our modular industrial carbon capture technology almost overnight, resulting in a 64 percent increase in inquiries from the U.S. To meet this booming demand, we have opened a U.S. headquarters in Houston, and have plans to double our U.S. headcount to meet industry requirements for our scalable and cost-effective technology, CycloneCC. In short, the United States is poised to become our biggest market. Given our latest lead investor and partner is Houston-based Chevron New Energies, there is no better place than Houston to drive innovation in the country’s energy sector.

The IRA did more than just bring in new inquiries for our breakthrough technology – it also signaled to the energy sector that the federal government is getting serious about bringing emissions down. The impact of the IRA cannot be overstated, especially for the point-source carbon capture technology pioneered by Carbon Clean. While the IRA involves billions of dollars of public investment, it is set up in such a way that companies must make substantial investments first, acting as a down payment on fostering jobs and ensuring the business community is delivering ambitious climate action. The benefits are being felt locally as well – cities like Houston are at the forefront of what the IRA has to offer, taking advantage of these investments and reducing emissions.

Companies and stakeholders across the energy spectrum need to act together and act fast. With the dramatic growth required for carbon capture to have full effect, it will be essential for government, industry, and innovators to join together to concentrate on a number of projects and clusters. We are confident that with new cutting-edge technology and broad collaboration we can rapidly get the world on the right path to net zero.

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Prateek Bumb is CTO and co-founder of Carbon Clean and the principal innovator of Carbon Clean’s industrial carbon capture technologies.

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.
Houston is primed to become an energy tech hub amid ongoing energy transition.

Houston has what it takes to be a leading energy tech hub, says expert

GUEST COLUMN

As the energy capital of the world, Houston has been a long-time leader in the energy industry, particularly oil and gas. With cutting-edge research and technological breakthroughs, unique talent of energy veterans and engineering know-how, the city is swiftly developing into a booming energy technology hub.

Houston’s R&D, talent pool, energy infrastructure, and favorable business environment is fostering the growth of technology-driven energy initiatives. These factors differentiate Houston's energy tech ecosystem from other tech hubs in the U.S., in similar ways to how Silicon Valley has been known for technology and software and Boston and New York for biotech and fintech ecosystems, respectively.

Primarily, Houston's proximity to major energy players has played a crucial role in its evolution as an energy technology hub. Around 34 percent of all publicly traded oil and gas companies in the U.S. are headquartered in the city. Even the energy companies that are headquartered outside of Houston (e.g., Exelon, Duke Energy, and NextEra Energy) have established their energy transition headquarters and plants/infrastructure here. This proximity enables energy technology startups easy access to market, expertise, resources, and funding, fostering a vibrant ecosystem that supports their growth.

Moreover, with an expanding network of academic and commercial R&D activity, the city has become a rising hub of technological development. It currently houses more than 21 business research centers focusing on various aspects related to energy transition through design, prototype, and applied intelligence studios.

For instance, the Greater Houston Partnership, a key organization in promoting Houston’s economic growth, has been actively involved in positioning the city as a leader in the global energy transition space. Some of the notable green energy startups leading Houston’s energy transition are Sunnova, Solugen, Fervo Energy, Syzygy Plasmonics, Ionada, and Energy Transition Ventures.

The emergence of startup development organizations throughout the city, including workplaces, incubators, and accelerators, in recent years has fostered collaboration among founders, investors, and talent, thereby accelerating the rate of business formation and growth. Accelerators and incubators such as Halliburton Labs, Greentown Labs, The Ion District, and Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator are key supporters of innovation and entrepreneurship in Houston’s energy technology landscape.

In addition, government funding is catalyzing Houston’s growth in energy tech. Most prominently, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is likely to stimulate greater investment in solar and wind energy, charging infrastructure, and electric vehicles in Houston. It will support the city’s R&D institutions and technology developers in pioneering energy transition for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCS/CCUS), hydrogen, and renewable fuels, resulting in a 13-fold increase in capital expenditure for infrastructure between 2024 and 2035.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) also focus on promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies, many of which are coming out of Houston.

Further, Houston has a strong talent pool with a workforce of three million individuals and the fourth largest concentration of engineers in the US. In 2022, the growth rate of tech employment in the region was 3.5 percent while the national growth rate was 3.2 percent.

The energy industry, research institutions, and government are coming together in Houston to propel it to become a leader in energy technology. However, the city still has a ways to go: Houston needs to build more in non-traditional energy sectors (e.g. wind, solar, etc.), attract more entrepreneurs to start companies here, and get more investors to invest here. Having successful energy tech exits and reinvestment in new startups here would help.

Houston has tremendous potential to lead energy technology, and with the rapidly growing focus of research, businesses, and government policies on energy transition. The confluence of energy tech players coming together in Houston is driving its evolution as an energy tech hub, making it an exciting place for new technologies and businesses to develop and grow, and reinvest in Houston.

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Michael Torosian is a partner in the corporate practice in the San Francisco office of Baker Botts. He is outside general counsel to emerging companies and their investors and advisors at all stages.

Put in the effort to create a strong people culture from the start — it can make all the difference for your company. Photo by Tom Werner/Getty Images

Houston expert: How to build a strong people culture from day one

guest column

Entrepreneurs are driven and tenacious when building a business. However, the laser focus on making a business profitable, from logistics to taxes and everything in between, can sometimes cause one important element to be missed, the people.

The best business plans cannot work without people to implement the details. When a strong people culture is established from the very beginning, the employees who help build the company from the ground up, stay engaged and can become an integral part of the company’s success for years to come.

Below are a few items to help entrepreneurs concentrate on their most precious asset, their people, pinpoint their motivations and learn how employees can enjoy what they do every day, which can take any business to the next level.

Share values

The onus falls on the business leaders within a startup to create a work environment that encourages employees to succeed and enjoy their career. Nurturing a culture rooted in a shared mission and values allows the company to easily build a desirable workplace where employees are eager to return.

When communicating a company’s values, they are more influential when they are lived by leadership. For example, if curiosity is a key value, leadership should encourage teams to ask questions and not be afraid to try to speak up when there may be a more effective path for the business.

It is also important for business owners to look for candidates to fill roles in the growing business who embody their key values. This may mean looking beyond the job description for like-minded people who align with the values and who then bring a positive outlook to the position, are more apt to collaborate and are fully engaged.

Offer unique benefits

Small businesses have the upper hand when it comes to unique benefits because they are a much nimbler organization. When an organization intentionally creates a people-first environment, there is near immediate access to leadership, rapid advancement opportunities are more plentiful and the impact employees at every level can have on the organization is monumental. This is an exciting prospect for so many who share an entrepreneur’s vision.

There are also the traditional benefits that are essential to a strong people culture. This may seem like a daunting prospect, but it can be simple to provide employees, while also competing with large-company benefits, with the help of a professional employer organization. What will strengthen a people culture’s foundation is offering the traditional benefits along with the benefits many enjoyed during the pandemic, which may have been cut by other organizations, such as mental health programs, expanded sick-leave, financial wellness programs, care benefits and others.

When deciding what benefits to offer, it is important to ask employees what benefits mean the most to them. Every benefit may not be feasible, but employees having a say in their benefits further strengthens the people culture.

Communicate

It sounds simple but establishing a culture with transparent communication, within reason, is conducive to a strong people culture. However, for many entrepreneurs, communicating without a plan often leads to not communicating at all.

Set the stage for clear, consistent communication from the very beginning. For example, establishing a standing meeting, whether it is once per week or every morning, allows leadership to share updates, make announcements and point out team wins. For employees, it is an open forum to ask questions. Also setting the standard to talk to employees before making any major policy changes builds trust in the organization, even if the policy change may not be the most desirable for everyone. By surveying staff before a policy change, leadership can clearly communicate the reasoning and have a fully prepared team before implementation.

In a growing business, it is easy to put your head down and grind forward, but engaged employees are essential to making an entrepreneur’s dream come to fruition. Putting in the effort to create a strong people culture from the start will help ensure you have employees who want to be a part of the organization and contribute to its success.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.
Stephanie Tsuru joins this week's Houston Innovators Podcast to share her growth plans for 2023. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston founder shares expansion plans for female-focused coworking

houston innovators podcast episode 169

Stephanie Tsuru didn't know much about coworking when she decided to jump headfirst into creating SheSpace.

On this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast, Tsuru, founder and CEO of SheSpace, explains that she saw an need for a place for women — entrepreneurs, independent contractors, remote workers, etc. — to congregate and collaborate. So, she filled that need.

"The idea wasn't about coworking — it was a place to bring women together so that they didn't have to sit by themselves in a coffee shop," she says on the show.

Tsuru opened the membership-based space with her daughter-in-law Katie in November of 2020, and has already expanded to support its growing membership. In August 2021, SheSpace added an additional 1,500 square feet. Now, the company has 250 women in its network, whether they rent a private office, hotdesk, or just attend for events — something Tsuru says was created based on interest from potential members.

"We had so many people who wanted to be a part of the community — so we started a social networking group," she says.

SheSpace was designed very intentionally, Tsuru explains on the podcast. Everything from the colors on the walls to the parking and surrounding retail access was intentional.

"Women have a lot of stuff on their plate," she says, explaining how SheSpace has a gas station, a grocery store, a nail salon, and more within the same retail property. "We don't get our stuff done in an office complex."

SheSpace has a busy year ahead. While the Heights-area location will be SheSpace's flagship and where programming will continue to be held, Tsuru says she has plans to open a satellite location to accommodate a growing membership and Houston's sprawl.

"We are looking at satellite areas for more offices, workspace, and meeting rooms," she says. "We'll make a decision and have a location this year."

She shares more about what she's accomplished with SheSpace in its first two years — as well as what's next on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


The Cannon is expecting to open by the end of next month. Courtesy of The Cannon

Photos: The Cannon enters home stretch ahead of opening next month

Cannon Countdown

If all goes according to plan, The Cannon's new space will be up and running by the end of June. The bulk of the construction, which started a little over a year ago, is done, and the team is on the home stretch.

The original plan was to open in March, but construction faced a series of setbacks due to weather.

"Houston's rainy winter pushed back our initial timeline a bit, but we are currently on track for opening late next month and are excited to get our amazing community moved into our brand new home," says Lawson Gow, founder and CEO of The Cannon. "We can't wait to show off our space to Houston's entrepreneurial community through events, programming, new partnerships and more, continuing in our mission to support Houston's startups and small businesses."

Two Houston-based companies are responsible for the 120,000-square-foot, 32-acre coworking and entrepreneurship campus in West Houston — Burton Construction is the general contractor and Abel Design Group is the architect.

The new space is already 80 percent pre-leased. Currently, The Cannon has a 20,000-square-foot space next door to the construction site. While companies working out of this so-called "waiting room" building will be moving over, Gow, who is the son of InnovationMap's CEO, is excited to announce a few new startups excited to call The Cannon home next month.

The goal of The Cannon's project is to fulfill a need Gow says he recognized in Houston.

"The problem that we're addressing — every startup is addressing a problem — is Houston has really struggled to develop vibrant startup communities," Gow tells InnovationMap in a previous interview. "Entrepreneurs and talent will leave to go to Austin and beyond, and so the mission was to create a place and an infrastructure and a density of resources to prevent them from having to do that and keep our entrepreneurs here."

The new space will allow Gow and his team to host pitch events and even live fundraising events, due to a partnership with LetsLaunch.

Progress

Courtesy of The Cannon

The Cannon's construction delays were mostly due to a rainy season in Houston.

Take a video tour of The Cannon here:

The Cannon Flythroughwww.youtube.com

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas nonprofit grants $68.5M to Houston organizations for recruitment, research

Three prominent institutions in Houston will be able to snag a trio of high-profile cancer researchers thanks to $12 million in new funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

The biggest recruitment award — $6 million — went to the University of Texas MD Anderson Center to lure researcher Xiling Shen away from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation in Los Angeles.

Shen is chief scientific officer at the nonprofit Terasaki Institute. His lab there studies precision medicine, including treatments for cancer, from a “systems biology perspective.”

He also is co-founder and former CEO of Xilis, a Durham, North Carolina-based oncology therapy startup that raised $70 million in series A funding in 2021. Before joining the institute in 2021, the Stanford University graduate was an associate professor at Duke University in Durham.

Shen and Xilis aren’t strangers to MD Anderson.

In 2023, MD Anderson said it planned to use Xilis’ propriety MicroOrganoSphere (MOS) technology for development of novel cancer therapies.

“Our research suggests the MOS platform has the potential to offer new capabilities and to improve the efficiency of developing innovative drugs and cell therapies over current … models, which we hope will bring medicines to patients more quickly,” Shen said in an MD Anderson news release.

Here are the two other Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awards that will bring noted cancer researchers to Houston:

  • $4 million to attract David Sarlah to Rice University from the University of Illinois, where he is an associate professor of chemistry. Sarlah’s work includes applying the principles of chemistry to creation of new cancer therapies.
  • $2 million to lure Vishnu Dileep to the Baylor College of Medicine from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is a postdoctoral fellow. His work includes the study of cancer genomes.

CPRIT also handed out more than $56.5 million in grants and awards to seven institutions in the Houston area. Here’s the rundown:

  • MD Anderson Cancer Center — Nearly $25.6 million
  • Baylor College of Medicine — Nearly $11.5 million
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston — More than $6 million
  • Rice University — $4 million
  • University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston — More than $3.5 million
  • Methodist Hospital Research Institute — More than $3.3 million
  • University of Houston — $1.4 million

Dr. Pavan Reddy, a CPRIT scholar who is a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and director of its Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, says the CPRIT funding “will help our investigators take chances and explore bold ideas to make innovative discoveries.”

The Houston-area funding was part of nearly $99 million in grants and awards that CPRIT recently approved.

Houston space company's lunar lander touches down on the moon in historic mission

touchdown

A private lander on Thursday made the first U.S. touchdown on the moon in more than 50 years, but managed just a weak signal back until flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact.

Despite the spotty communication, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed upright. But it did not provide additional details, including whether the lander had reached its intended destination near the moon’s south pole. The company ended its live webcast soon after identifying a lone, weak signal from the lander.

“What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the moon,” mission director Tim Crain reported as tension built in the company’s Houston control center.

Added Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus: “I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting. Welcome to the moon.”

Data was finally starting to stream in, according to a company announcement two hours after touchdown.

The landing put the U.S. back on the surface for the first time since NASA’s famed Apollo moonwalkers.

Intuitive Machines also became the first private business to pull off a lunar landing, a feat achieved by only five countries. Another U.S. company, Astrobotic Technology, gave it a shot last month, but never made it to the moon, and the lander crashed back to Earth. Both companies are part of a NASA-supported program to kick-start the lunar economy.

Astrobotic was among the first to relay congratulations. “An incredible achievement. We can’t wait to join you on the lunar surface in the near future,” the company said via X, formerly Twitter.

Intuitive Machines “aced the landing of a lifetime,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted.

The final few hours before touchdown were loaded with extra stress when the lander's laser navigation system failed. The company's flight control team had to press an experimental NASA laser system into action, with the lander taking an extra lap around the moon to allow time for the last-minute switch.

With this change finally in place, Odysseus descended from a moon-skimming orbit and guided itself toward the surface, aiming for a relatively flat spot among all the cliffs and craters near the south pole.

As the designated touchdown time came and went, controllers at the company's command center anxiously awaited a signal from the spacecraft some 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers) away. After close to 15 minutes, the company announced it had received a weak signal from the lander.

Launched last week, the six-footed carbon fiber and titanium lander — towering 14 feet (4.3 meters) — carried six experiments for NASA. The space agency gave the company $118 million to build and fly the lander, part of its effort to commercialize lunar deliveries ahead of the planned return of astronauts in a few years.

Intuitive Machines' entry is the latest in a series of landing attempts by countries and private outfits looking to explore the moon and, if possible, capitalize on it. Japan scored a lunar landing last month, joining earlier triumphs by Russia, U.S., China and India.

The U.S. bowed out of the lunar landscape in 1972 after NASA's Apollo program put 12 astronauts on the surface. Astrobotic of Pittsburgh gave it a shot last month, but was derailed by a fuel leak that resulted in the lander plunging back through Earth's atmosphere and burning up.

Intuitive Machines’ target was 186 miles (300 kilometers) shy of the south pole, around 80 degrees latitude and closer to the pole than any other spacecraft has come. The site is relatively flat, but surrounded by boulders, hills, cliffs and craters that could hold frozen water, a big part of the allure. The lander was programmed to pick, in real time, the safest spot near the so-called Malapert A crater.

The solar-powered lander was intended to operate for a week, until the long lunar night.

Besides NASA’s tech and navigation experiments, Intuitive Machines sold space on the lander to Columbia Sportswear to fly its newest insulating jacket fabric; sculptor Jeff Koons for 125 mini moon figurines; and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for a set of cameras to capture pictures of the descending lander.