The GHP and HETI announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Argonne National Laboratory, a a federally-funded research and development facility in Illinois. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

A new partnership between the Greater Houston Partnership and Argonne National Laboratory has been established to spur development of commercial-scale energy transition solutions.

The GHP and the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, or HETI, announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Argonne National Laboratory, a federally-funded research and development facility in Illinois. The lab is owned by the United States Department of Energy and run by UChicago Argonne LLC of the University of Chicago.

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories have long been the backbone of research, development, and demonstration for the energy sector," Bobby Tudor, CEO of Artemis Energy Partners and Chair of HETI, says in a news release. "The Partnership and HETI, working with our industry members, business community and top research and academic institutions, in collaboration with Argonne, will work across our energy innovation ecosystem to drive this critical effort for our region.”

The partnership, announced at HETI House at CERAWeek by S&P Global, is intended to provide resources and collaboration opportunities between Houston's energy innovation ecosystem — from corporates to startups — to "accelerate the translation, evaluation and pre-commercialization of breakthrough carbon reduction technologies," per the news release.

“A decarbonization center of excellence in Houston is the missing link in the region’s coordinated approach to advancing critical energy transition technologies needed to mitigate the risks associated with climate change, while also promoting economic growth and job creation for the region,” Tudor continues.

Established in 1946, Argonne works with universities, industry, and other national laboratories on large, collaborative projects that are expected to make a big impact on the energy transition.

“Partnerships are essential to realizing net zero goals,” Argonne Director Paul Kearns adds. “We are pleased to extend DOE national laboratory expertise and work with HETI to focus the region’s considerable energy and industrial assets, infrastructure, and talent on broad commercial deployment of needed technologies.”

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

Houston House at SXSW 2024 featured conversations about startup scaling, tips from CEOs, and more. Photo via Allie Danziger/LinkedIn

Overheard: Innovators sound off on future of work, converging industries at Houston House at SXSW 2024

Eavesdropping in Austin

Houston innovators talked big topics at SXSW 2024 — from the startup scaling and converging industries to the future of work.

Houston House, which was put on by the Greater Houston Partnership on March 11, hosted four panels full of experts from Houston. If you missed the day-long activation, here are some highlights from the experts who each commented on the future of the Bayou City when it comes to startups, technology, innovation, and the next generation's workforce.

"When we think about Houston, we think about access to at-scale infrastructure, amenities, and workforce and talent pools."

— Remington Tonar, co-founder and chief growth officer at Cart.com, says about why the company chose to return its headquarters back to Houston last year. One of these amenities, Tonar explained, is Houston's global airports.

"If New York and Austin had a baby, it would be Houston, because you have friendly people with a big-city culture."

— Mitra Miller, vice president and board member of Houston Angel Network, says, adding that Houston has a cost efficiency to it, which should be at the forefront of founders' minds when considering where to locate.

"We are not only attracting global talents, we are also attracting global wealth and foreign investments because we are the rising city of the future. We are the global launch pad where you can scale internationally very quickly."

— Sunny Zhang, founder of TrueLeap, says adding how there's a redistribution of global workforce happening when you consider ongoing global affairs.

"We overwhelmingly as a company, and my co-founder would agree, knew we had to go the Houston path. And we started funneling a lot more resources here."

— Carolyn Rodz, co-founder and CEO of Hello Alice, says, explaining that the pandemic helped equalize the talent across the country, and this has been to the benefit of cities like Houston.

"Houston is here with arms open, welcoming people and actively recruiting."

— Sean Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Amperon, says, emphasizing how Texas has made moves to being business friendly. Amperon was founded in New York, before moving to Houston a couple years ago.

"There is a revolution starting to happen in Houston right now."

— Trevor Best, co-founder and CEO of Syzygy Plasmonics, says, first commenting on the momentum from Rice University, where his company's technology originates from. But, as he adds, when you compare the ecosystem when the startup was founded in 2019 to where it's at now, "there is so much more happening."

"Houston has a critical mass in terms of aerospace."

— Stephanie Munez Murphy of Aegus Aerospace says, saying specifically that NASA's Johnson Space Center holds some responsibility for that. "JSC is the home of opening up space commercialization."

"There's diversity in industries people are coming from, but also in terms of experience and expertise that (Houstonians) have."

— Robyn Cardwell of Omniscience says, adding that Houston's diversity goes further than just where people originate from. "Houston has all these pieces put together ... for growing and scaling organizations," she adds.

"I've worked with thousands of students in Houston who are actively looking to better themselves and grow their career post college or post high school and go into the workforce."

— Allie Danziger of Ascent Funding says, adding that Gen Z, which is already entering the workforce, is entrepreneurial and ready to change the world. "Seeing the energy of Houstonians is just thrilling," she adds.

"We're working together in the Houston community. ... There are so many opportunities to collaborate but we need conveners." 

— Stacy Putman of INEOS says, adding that within industry there has been a lack of discussion and collaboration because of competition. But, as she's observing, that's changing thanks to conveners at colleges or at the Greater Houston Partnership.

"The opportunity for Houston is that everybody has to step up to be in some way, shape, or form helping us with this."

— Raj Salhotra of Momentum Education says about supporting the future workforce of Houston, including low-income household students.

Introducing: Houston Energy and Climate Startup Week, a collaborative initiative that will showcase Houston's ecosystem of energy tech innovators. Photo via Getty Images

Houston organizations team up to bring inaugural climate startup week

mark your calendars

Three organizations are teaming up to put on a week of programming and events focused on energy and climate startups.

Greentown Labs, Halliburton Labs, and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship have announced Houston Energy and Climate Startup Week 2024 taking place September 9 to 13.

“These organizations will execute events that will serve as a launching pad for an Energy and Climate Startup Week in Houston, showcasing the city as a national hub for the energy future,” Brad Burke, executive director of the Rice Alliance, says in the release. “We welcome the community to bring other energy and climate events to the week, which we’ll cross-promote as the dates approach.”

The week will assemble investors, industry leaders, and startups from across the energy industry and from around the world to showcase Houston's growing sustainable, low-carbon energy future.

The initiative is in collaboration with the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, or HETI, an initiative of the Greater Houston Partnership, as well as Activate, Digital Wildcatters, Renewable Energy Alliance Houston, and TEX-E.

“As the energy capital and one of the most diverse cities in the world, Houston stands as a center point for these solutions. The region is welcoming, diverse and has the know-how to play a critical role in building an energy abundant, low-carbon future," Jane Stricker, executive director of HETI and senior vice president at GHP, says in the release. "We welcome all who want to be part of the solution to join for this exciting, inaugural week of events.”

Attendees can expect tech and startup showcases, panels, pitches, discussions, and networking events to be hosted across Houston and at the Ion, Rice's innovation hub in Midtown. More details on the events will be added to the Ion's website as they become available.

“We look forward to the opportunity to highlight talented founders and connect them with investors, industry practitioners and university resources to help accelerate energy innovation,” Dale Winger, managing director of Halliburton Labs, says in the release. “The collaboration to launch Energy and Climate Startup Week reflects how Houston works together to scale solutions."

Steve Kean has made his first moves as the new president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. Photo courtesy of the GHP

New GHP leader takes helm, creates ‘shared leadership model’

mixing it up

The Greater Houston Partnership announced organizational changes under the tenure of its new president and CEO, Steve Kean.

Kean officially took on his new role earlier this month, after being named the next CEO this summer. The GHP's former president and CEO, Bob Harvey, announced his retirement in January.

In his first acts as CEO, Kean reshuffled his executive suite with a series of promotions.

Katie Pryor has been promoted to executive vice president and COO where she will lead the partnership’s development and revenue activities like long-term fundraising efforts, engagement opportunities, annual membership campaigns, special events and programs, and long-term fundraising efforts, oversee people and culture, finance and accounting, and information systems departments.

Taylor Landin was also promoted, as he was named executive vice president and chief policy officer, where he will continue to lead the team of public policy and advocacy professionals in policy priorities at the federal, state and local levels.

Kean also created the Office of the CEO, which will be composed of both Pryor and Landin, and the organization’s senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, Clint Pasche.

“I believe this shared leadership model will produce better outcomes on the strategies, opportunities, and issues we’ll address at the partnership,” Kean says in a news release.

GHP is Houston’s “leading business organization,” which has championed growth across a 12-county region by uniting business and civic leaders dedicated to Houston’s long-term success.

“I have always known Houston to be a region focused on creating opportunity, and as I’ve visited with many across our community over the last few months since my appointment, I have seen this opportunity-creation mindset in our region’s corporations and startups, political leadership, educational institutions, economic development partners and so many other organizations,” Kean, who once was the CEO of Kinder Morgan, adds in a news release. “There is strength in the unity of spirit we have here in Houston; and our ability to collaborate and work together is what sets us apart from other cities around the country.”

Amy Chronis is passing over the local leadership reins at Deloitte to Melinda Yee. Photos courtesy

Prominent Houston energy business leader to retire, successor named

in transition

Amy Chronis, a Houston business leader within the energy industry and beyond, is retiring next summer. Her replacement has been named.

Melinda Yee will be the incoming Houston managing partner at Deloitte, replacing Chronis who held the role along with the title vice chair and US energy and chemicals leader. Chronis will retire in June 2024, and Yee's new role is effective January 2.

“Melinda has been an active and valued member of Deloitte’s Houston leadership team. She brings an impressive depth of both industry and marketplace knowledge to her new role as managing partner,” Chronis says in a news release. “I am confident that she will be a great leader for our Houston professionals and in the local community.”

Yee has worked at Deloitte for over 30 years and has served as both Deloitte’s central region risk and advisory leader as well as the Houston risk and advisory leader. She also held the title of energy and chemicals leader within Deloitte’s mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring services practice. She's worked on transactions across the energy value chain, as well as waste management, manufacturing, industrials, services, retail operations and investment management, per the release.

“I am honored to have been asked to serve as the managing partner for Deloitte’s Houston practice,” Yee says in the release. “I look forward to continuing the great work Deloitte has accomplished under Amy’s leadership, delivering results for our clients and making an impact in the Houston community.”

In addition to her role at Deloitte, she serves as a board member for Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, a member of the Energy Transition Committee for the Greater Houston Partnership, and is Audit Committee chair, director and trustee at the University of Colorado Foundation.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

It's a homecoming for this Texas unicorn. Photo via cart.com

Houston-founded unicorn logistics company returns HQ to the Bayou City

coming home

While originally founded in Houston in 2020, Cart.com has called Austin home for the past two years. Now, the scaling software company is coming home.

Cart.com, a tech company providing commerce and logistical solutions for businesses, announced today that its corporate headquarters has returned to Houston amid its rapid growth.

“I couldn’t be happier to bring Cart.com back home to Houston as we continue to revolutionize how merchants sell and fulfill products to meet customers anywhere they are,” Cart.com Founder and CEO Omair Tariq says in a news release. “The idea for Cart.com was born in Houston and we’ve always maintained a strong local presence with the majority of our executive team and board based here. As our customer mix increasingly moves upmarket and our own needs evolve, I’m confident Houston has what we need as we look towards the next stage of Cart.com’s growth story.”

The company has raised over $400 million in venture funding over the past three years, and has grown a customer base of 6,000 users, supporting over $8 billion in gross merchandise value, according to Cart.com. After making several acquisitions, the company also operates 14 fulfillment centers nationwide.

Cart.com's most recent raise, a $60 million series C round this summer, was announced to support an international expansion. Last year, the company secured $240 million in equity and debt funding.

According to the release, the relocation comes at a time of "unprecedented growth" for the business, which calls out Houston's central location, transportation infrastructure, and dynamic business community.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Cart.com home and proud to have one of the country’s fastest-growing unicorns back in Houston,” Bob Harvey, president and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership, in the release. “Cart.com’s homecoming is a testament to why companies repeatedly choose Houston to scale their business with its diverse and dynamic economy along with its unparalleled talent pool that cuts across technology, professional services and global trade. We’re excited to support Cart.com’s continued growth and look forward to the company’s contribution to Houston’s growing tech community.”

Earlier this month, Tariq was named a regional winner in the Entrepreneur Of The Year program, run by professional services firm EY. He was one of 11 Houston-based executives named in the Gulf South region and now will move on to national Entrepreneur Of The Year program.

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SpaceX's mega rocket completes its fourth test flight from Texas without exploding

houston, we have liftoff

SpaceX’s mega Starship rocket completed its first full test flight Thursday, returning to Earth without exploding after blasting off from Texas.

It was the fourth launch of the world’s biggest and most powerful rocket, standing nearly 400 feet (121 meters) tall. The three previous flight demos ended in explosions. This time, the rocket and the spacecraft managed to splash down in a controlled fashion, making the hourlong flight the longest and most successful yet.

“Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said via X.

Starship was empty as it soared above the Gulf of Mexico and headed east on a flight to the Indian Ocean. Within minutes, the first-stage booster separated from the spacecraft and splashed into the gulf precisely as planned, after firing its engines.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of nearly 130 miles (211 kilometers), traveling at more 16,000 mph (26,000 kph), before beginning its descent. Live views showed parts of the spacecraft breaking away during the intense heat of reentry, but a cracked camera lens obscured the images.

The spacecraft remained intact enough to transmit data all the way to its targeted splashdown site in the Indian Ocean.

It was a critical milestone in the company’s plan to eventually reuse the rocket that NASA and Musk are counting on to get humanity to the moon and then Mars.

“What a show it has been,” SpaceX launch commentator Kate Tice said from Mission Control at company headquarters in California.

SpaceX came close to avoiding explosions in March, but lost contact with the spacecraft as it careened out of space and blew up short of its goal. The booster also ruptured in flight, a quarter-mile above the gulf.

Last year’s two test flights ended in explosions shortly after blasting off from the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border. The first one cratered the pad at Boca Chica Beach and hurled debris for thousands of feet (meters).

SpaceX upgraded the software and made some rocket-flyback changes to improve the odds. The Federal Aviation Administration signed off Tuesday on this fourth demo, saying all safety requirements had been met.

Starship is designed to be fully reusable. That’s why SpaceX wants to control the booster’s entry into the gulf and the spacecraft’s descent into the Indian Ocean — it’s intended as practice for planned future landings. Nothing is being recovered from Thursday’s flight.

NASA has ordered a pair of Starships for two moon-landing missions by astronauts, on tap for later this decade. Each moon crew will rely on NASA’s own rocket and capsule to leave Earth, but meet up with Starship in lunar orbit for the ride down to the surface.

SpaceX already is selling tourist trips around the moon. The first private lunar customer, a Japanese tycoon, pulled out of the trip with his entourage last week, citing the oft-delayed schedule.

SpaceX’s founder and CEO has grander plans: Musk envisions fleets of Starships launching people and the infrastructure necessary to build a city on Mars.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Houston clean energy accelerator names 4th cohort of early-stage tech companies

seeing green

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator has named 12 early-stage energy technology companies to its latest cohort.

The companies, which hail from six states and two countries, are providing solutions across carbon management, advanced materials, hydrogen, solar, and more. The program, which operates in a hybrid capacity based out of the Ion, will run for 10 weeks beginning July 9 and culminating in a demo day alongside the 21st Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum on September 12. Throughout the duration, the companies will come to Houston three times.

"As Houston’s preeminent energy startup accelerator, this is an open door to the region’s energy ecosystem for ventures from around the world and puts them through a rigorous curriculum to bolster their fundraising efforts, prepare them for accelerated adoption into the marketplace and expand their connections for potential pilots, partnerships and sales," per a Rice Alliance news release.

This cohort's executives-in-residence, or XiRs, include Tim Franklin-Hensler, John Jeffers, Ritu Sachdeva and Nick Tillmann. In addition to these innovators — who bring their expertise, mentorship, and strategic growth planning — the program is ed by the Rice Alliance’s Kerri Smith and Matt Peña.

Class 4 for the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator includes:

  • 1s1 Energy, based in Portola Valley, California, develops electrolyzers with boron-based materials so that utilities and heavy industry can produce low-cost green hydrogen to decarbonize existing and future businesses.
  • Houston-based Capwell provides a cost-effective, modular, and easily transportable system that eliminates methane emissions from wells for state governments and oil and as companies.
  • CarboMat, from Calgary, Alberta, provides a clean technology that produces low-cost, sustainable, and mid-tier grade carbon fibers at a 60 percent reduced production cost and 50 percent reduced GHG emissions to composite manufacturers in industries that require large volumes of inexpensive carbon fibers for production of commodity grade products.
  • Cleveland, Ohio-headquartered Corrolytics offers cutting-edge technology that detects corrosion on-site and in near real-time, providing accurate insights into microbial corrosion and general corrosion.
  • Geolabe, from Los Almos, New Mexico, provides an automated methane monitoring system that helps organizations measure environmental performance and introduce and prioritize remedial actions.
  • Kaizen, which operates in Tomball just outside of Houston, provides hydrogen based microgrids that enable fleet electrification at sites that are grid constrained or off grid. The solutions emit no local emissions and reduce global emissions.
  • Los Angeles-based QEA Tech offers services and equipment to capture carbon dioxide with a patent-pending granulated metal carbonate sorption technology captures over 95 percent of the CO2 emitted from post-combustion point sources.
  • QEA Tech, headquartered in Honolulu, provides ocean thermal energy technologies and power plants that delivers abundant, affordable, base load power to utilities and companies who need a firm, dispatchable, and 24/7 carbon-free source of electricity.
  • From Ontario, Canada, QEA Tech provides detailed building envelope energy audits using drones, thermography, and proprietary AI based software.
  • Houston-based Sensytec offers patented sensors, delivering real-time, accurate material performance data of concrete and advanced building materials.
  • Vroom Solar, based in Springfield, Missouri, provides Smart Solar Management technology that optimizes solar and optional AC power differently at a lower cost and smaller footprint for solar customers who need affordable, efficient, and user-friendly power anywhere.
  • VulcanX, from Vancouver, Canada, provides hydrogen and solid carbon to gas utilities, steel manufacturers and ammonia producers who require low-cost and low-emission hydrogen.

Since launching in 2021, the Clean Energy Accelerator has accelerated 43 ventures that have raised more than $166 million in funding. According to the program, these companies have piloted their technologies, connected with investors, created jobs, and many relocated to Houston.

The 2023 cohort included 15 clean energy companies.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

University of Houston lab report breakthrough in cancer-detecting technology

making moves

T-cell immunotherapy is all the rage in the world of fighting cancer. A Houston company’s researchers have discovered a new subset of T cells that could be a game changer for patients.

CellChorus is a spinoff of Navin Varadarajan’s Single Cell Lab, part of the University of Houston’s Technology Bridge. The lab is the creator of TIMING, or Time-lapse Imaging Microscopy In Nanowell Grids. It’s a visual AI program that allows scientists to understand the functions of cells by evaluating cell activation, killing, and movement.

Last month, Nature Cancer published a paper co-authored by Varadarajan entitled, “Identification of a clinically efficacious CAR T cell subset in diffuse large B cell lymphoma by dynamic multidimensional single-cell profiling.”

“Our results showed that a subset of T cells, labeled as CD8-fit T cells, are capable of high motility and serial killing, found uniquely in patients with clinical response,” says first author and recent UH graduate Ali Rezvan in Nature Cancer.

Besides him and Varadarajan, contributors hail from Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Kite Pharma, and CellChorus itself.

The team identified the CD80-fit T cells using TIMING to examine interactions between T cells and tumor cells across thousands of individual cells. They were able to integrate the results using single-cell RNA sequencing data.

T-cell therapy activates a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells, but not every patient responds favorably to it. Identifying CD8-fit cells could be the key to manufacturing clinical response even in those for whom immunotherapy hasn’t been effective.

“This work illustrates the excellence of graduate students Ali Rezvan and Melisa Montalvo; and post-doctoral researchers Melisa Martinez-Paniagua and Irfan Bandey among others,” says Varadarajan in a statement.

Earlier last month, CellChorus recently received a $2.5 million SBIR grant. The money allows the company to share TIMING more widely, facilitating even more landmark discoveries like CD8-fit cells.