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

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."

EnergyCapitalHTX is now live and reporting on Houston's role in the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

Gow Media's media platform launches to report on Houston energy transition news

it's go time

Houston's newest media platform has officially gone live.

EnergyCapitalHTX.com, originally announced in March, is now up and running. 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, launched the site tonight at an event at Gow Media's office.

“We are excited to roll out our new outlet, EnergyCapitalHTX.com. We have been very impressed by Houston’s efforts to lead the global transition of energy and to address the 'dual challenge' of meeting the world’s growing demand for energy while at the same time reducing carbon emissions,” says David Gow, CEO of Gow Media.

“On our new site, we plan to provide informative, unbiased coverage of the Houston-based initiatives, spanning big corporations and startups," he continues. "We hope that a site dedicated to the transition will bring visibility to the city’s substantive progress and to the path forward.”

The site will cover Houston's energy transition ecosystem — the people, companies, capital sources, and numerous initiatives in Houston. Lindsey Ferrell serves as the inaugural editor of the site.

The site’s inaugural sponsor is HETI, which launched in 2021. Led by Executive Director Jane Stricker, HETI was founded to drive economic growth in the Houston area within the energy transition toward a lower carbon future.

“We are excited to support Gow Media with the launch EnergyCapitalHTX.com,” Stricker says in an earlier news release. "There is so much innovative and exciting activity in our ecosystem. Houston is the Energy Capital of the World, and this platform will amplify the energy leadership that is already happening here.”

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

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

taking home the W

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

Founded by Bryon Praslicka, Daniel Zamarron, and Craig Newman from Texas A&M University, Flux Works LLC, and its magnetic gear technology, took second place and $15,000 home. Tierra Climate, a two-sided marketplace for carbon offsets and other sustainability efforts founded by Emma Konet and Jacob Mansfield from Rice University, won third place and $10,000.

Helix Earth Technologies walked away with the top prize of the TEX-E category. Photo via greentownlabs.com

The next sets of startup pitches we broken down by funding stages — pre-seed and seed, series A, and series B and beyond.

Red Shift Energy, uses plasma energy to produce hydrogen from hydrogen sulfide, won fan favorite in the pre-seed and seed category sponsored by HX Venture Fund. A member of Halliburton Labs, the company also was recognized as Chevron favorite.

Per the judging panel, CanaGas won the title of most promising in the pre-seed and seed category sponsored by Alchemy Industrial. The Canadian company liquifies natural gas without costly cryogenics or stripping of the gas.

Houston-based Criterion Energy Partners won both the most-promising series A company category sponsored by SLB, but also the fan favorite series A category sponsored by Guerrella LLC. A geothermal energy tech company, Criterion was also a member of Rice's inaugural Clean Energy Accelerator cohort.

OptiSeis Solutions also won in both categories for the series B track. The company, a geophysical acquisition design and software company, won the title of most promising in the series B category sponsored by Pana LCE Investments and the series B fan favorite category sponsored by Halliburton Labs.

Lastly, the competition named the Most Impactful DEI, a category sponsored by Pana LCE Investments. Austin-based Gazelle Ecosystems, a social innovation startup with eco-solutions for corporations, won that category.

Are you interested in finding the best Houston tech and innovation conversations at CERAWeek this year? Look no further than this guide. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

7+ can't-miss innovation events at CERAWeek featuring Houston speakers

where to be

If you're headed out to CERAWeek by S&P Global next week in downtown Houston, you'll want to make the most of it. Scout out Houston tech innovators at this annual energy-focused conference with this list of must-attend panels, presentations, and networking opportunities.

CERAWeek, taking place in the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas Hotel, is focused is on the entire energy industry, and has several themes this year — including shifting geopolitics, supply chain and infrastructure constraints, tech and innovation, future of work, and more.

Most of the innovation-themed events are organized under the Agora track. While CERAWeek is a global affair, you're sure to spot Houston-based executives, companies, and startups. Here are all the events you can't miss if learning more about Houston energy innovation is your goal.

Monday: Scaling Startups: New and efficient financial models

New startups in the energy ecosystem are providing solutions to the grand climate and climate sustainability challenges. But exciting startups need to move beyond the drawing board to eventual commercial success through necessary funding. What financial models are most successful in bringing these startups to scale?

The panel is from 12:30 to 1:10 pm on Monday, March 6. More info.

Tuesday: Chevron | Global Innovation Hubs: Where to grow your startup

The world needs a robust energy innovation ecosystem to realize decarbonization commitments. Learn about how the ecosystem’s parts are interdependent and must work together for the system to thrive and for the world to advance an energy system that’s affordable, reliable and ever cleaner.

The talk is from 2 to 2:30 pm on Tuesday, March 7. More info.

Tuesday: Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub

With an existing ecosystem of infrastructure, producers, and consumers, the Gulf Coast has ambitions to become a global hydrogen hub. What technologies will be used? How will companies trade low-carbon hydrogen across their shared infrastructure? Join this panel to discuss how the “Energy Capital of the World” plans to lead the low carbon future.

The panel is from 5:30 to 6 pm on Tuesday, March 7. More info.

Wednesday: The Role of Private Capital in Funding the Energy Transition

While public market funds run by institutional investors have been shifting allocations toward cleantech companies, they are often hamstrung by a limited universe of pure-play cleantech equities and index-tracking methodologies that limit their ability to take longer-duration bets. The real action for energy transition investors to date has been in private equity, where funds can take duration risk and have overcome liquidity limitations by successfully raising historically large funds. The pace of private equity dealmaking, which slowed in early 2022, has accelerated sharply again for cleantech since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States. How much of the pent-up private equity capital remains to be run through, and how will the even larger universe of public market investors gain access to these growing markets?

The event is from 7:15 to 8:20 am on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Wednesday: Adaptation and Climate Resilience

We are witnessing a global rise in extreme weather events such as flooding, drought and heat waves. Climate change is having a variety of effects in different regions. Growing attention and investment is being directed to adaptation. What are different countries and regions doing to adapt to climate change? How will technology, policy and smart design combine to make the world more climate resilient?

The event is from 10 to 10:30 am on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Wednesday: HETI Energy Ventures Pitch Competition

Over 15 startups and entrepreneurs will present to an audience of 1000+ investors, accelerators, and innovators for a chance to win one of many awards sponsored by Houston's energy transition community.

The event is from 10 am to 3 pm on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Wednesday: Cities Leading the Energy Transition - World Energy Cities Partnership Mayors

Cities are at the forefront for tackling the climate and energy challenges impacting us all. Hear from the cities of Houston, Esbjerg, Perth and Calgary as they describe their visions toward a more sustainable energy plan for their communities.

The panel is from 12:30 to 1:10 pm on Wednesday, March 8. More info.

Thursday: Energy Transition Hubs: How cities are leading the charge

Increasingly, governments are transforming their communities by accelerating energy transition policies and infrastructure. Listen to how these cities are creating the blueprints for a more sustainable habitat for their citizens.

The panel is from 8:30 to 9:10 am on Thursday, March 9. More info.

BONUS: Network at these company houses

CERAWeek's Agora Partner houses exist showcase what companies are most excited about. Find your way to these three houses in between sessions to learn more about each business's tech and innovation.

  • Chevron: Back in its largest space yet, the Chevron house will highlight Chevron Technology Ventures portfolio companies, Chevron New Energies partnerships and tech experts, along with VR experiences and tech exhibits.
  • Oxy: Oxy, an international energy company based in Houston, is featuring its application of new tech, including Direct Air Capture with geologic sequestration and other CO2 utilization technologies.
  • ExxonMobil: ExxonMobil, which recently relocated its HQ to Houston, is talking about a lower-emission energy future — something that requires multiple solutions that can be implemented at scale to address some of the highest-emitting sectors of the economy.

Houston founders — these four programs have applications open now. Photo via Getty Images

4 program deadlines Houston innovators should know about

short stories

Editor's note: It's safe to say 2023 has fully kicked off as Houston's startup and innovation ecosystem has switched into second gear. A handful of programs — local and national — have opened applications for accelerators and pitch competitions. Scroll through to find one that applies to your company or a startup you know of. Take careful note of the deadlines since they'll be here before you know it.

Is something missing? Email natalie@innovationmap.com for editorial consideration.

Carbon to Value Initiative

Greentown Labs announced its looking for innovative companies with carbon-related technology. Photo via GreentownLabs.com

Greentown Labs announced that its Carbon to Value (C2V) Initiative has opened applications for its third set of startups.

"Supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the C2V Initiative is a unique partnership among the Urban Future Lab at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Greentown Labs, and Fraunhofer USA that’s driving the creation of a thriving innovation ecosystem for the commercialization of carbontech—technologies that capture and convert CO₂ into valuable end products or services," reads the news release. "Since the C2V Initiative's inception in 2020, the program has supported 18 groundbreaking carbontech startups—chosen from an exceptional pool of more than 230 applications."

The program is looking for companies with technologies within carbon capture, management, removal, or conversion and between TRL 4 and TRL 7. Selected companies will receive a $10,000 stipend and participate in the six-month program.

Applications are due by the end of the day on March 31. For more information and to apply, click here.

MassChallenge accelerators

MassChallenge has two accelerators open for applications. Photo courtesy of MassChallenge

MassChallenge has two programs with open applications:

MassChallenge US Early Stage Accelerator (Deadline: March 3)

This three-month program is industry agnostic and provides intensive support, guidance, tools, and connectivity to the greater MassChallenge community. Around 200 startups are selected per cohort that range in stage from those currently engaged in customer discovery work to validating a technology or service. For more information and to apply, click here.

MassChallenge HealthTech Accelerator (Deadline: February 6)

The 2023 HealthTech Sprint is an eight-week program intended to work intensely with 20 to 25 startups to accelerate the tools and technologies that could transform healthcare. The HealthTech Sprint program is designed to support mid-stage companies that possess a product/solution ready for scaling. For more information and to apply, click here.

Houston Energy Transition Initiative's Energy Ventures Pitch Competition 

HETI is bringing back its CERAWeek pitch competition. Image via houston.org

The Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative, or HETI, is looking for participants for its Energy Ventures Pitch Competition at CERAWeek this year.

"This pitch competition brings together key members of the energy industry, investors, and startups to showcase the critical innovations and emerging technologies that create value from the world’s transition to low-carbon energy systems," reads the website.

HETI is looking for companies addressing challenges and opportunities in CCUS, hydrogen, energy storage, and the circular economy, are invited to present their well-developed business concepts to a world-class investor community.

Applications close February 9. For more information and to apply, click here.

Rice Business Plan Competition

The annual Rice Business Plan Competition has opened applications for student startups. Photo by Natalie Harms

Calling all student-founded startups — the largest and richest intercollegiate student startup competition, the Rice Business Plan Competition, has applications open. According to Rice, 784 RBPC alumni have raised $4.6 billion in funding and created over 5,500 jobs. This year's event is going to be held May 11 to 13.

The RBPC is open to all students from any university around the world. Teams must include at least one graduate-level student, and every team that is invited to compete in person at Rice University is guaranteed to take home at least one of the more that 60 expected cash prizes. For more information and to apply, click here.

Bob Harvey has announced his retirement plans. Photo courtesy of GHP

Greater Houston Partnership leader to retire, executive search committee forms to find new CEO

transition plans

Bob Harvey, who has been at the helm as the Greater Houston Partnership for over a decade has announced his retirement plans.

In an announcement today, the GHP revealed that Harvey, the president and CEO of the organization since 2012, plans to retire at the end of the year.

“This last decade has been a dynamic time for Houston and the Partnership. As a life-long Houstonian, it is a true honor to wake up each day focused on supporting Houston’s growth and working with the business community to create opportunities for all Houstonians,” says Harvey in a news release. “The commitment of business leaders to the success of this region is inspiring, and I look forward to continuing to lead the Partnership over the next year as we move Houston forward.”

Thad Hill, the current board chair of GHP and president and CEO of Calpine Corporation, has created an executive search committee made up of Partnership board members and chaired by Marc Watts, the 2018 Partnership board chair and president of The Friedkin Group. According to the release, the search will be national but the new CEO will be expected to "have some working familiarity with Houston and its business community." Current staff members will also be considered.

“I want to thank Bob for his tremendous leadership over the last decade as we’ve made great strides as an organization and as a region,” Hill says in the release. “I am grateful that Bob will continue to advance the organization over the coming months as we begin the process to find his successor. Under Bob’s leadership, the Partnership plays an essential role in the inclusive growth and prosperity of our great community, and I am confident his successor will expand on that legacy.”

The GHP is an economic development organization that serves the 12-county region encompassing Houston. It also acts as the business community’s advocate within policy across the local, state, and federal levels.

Under Harvey, the GHP has rolled out several initiatives, including workforce development program UpSkill Houston, the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, and diversity, equity, and inclusion program One Houston Together.

“The Partnership is an outstanding organization with strong board and staff leadership, impeccable financials, and a mission-oriented bias for action to make Houston a better place to live, work and build a business,” Hill says in the release. “The next leader of the Partnership is set-up to succeed, and I look forward to the process to identifying this person who will continue the organization’s momentum forward.”

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Houston organizations launch collaborative center to boost cancer outcomes

new to HOU

Rice University's new Synthesis X Center officially launched last month to bring together experts in cancer care and chemistry.

The center was born out of what started about seven years ago as informal meetings between Rice chemist Han Xiao's research group and others from the Baylor College of Medicine’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The level of collaboration between the two teams has grown significantly over the years, and monthly meetings now draw about 100 participants from across disciplines, fields and Houston-based organizations, according to a statement from Rice.

Researchers at the new SynthX Center will aim to turn fundamental research into clinical applications and make precision adjustments to drug properties and molecules. It will focus on improving cancer outcomes by looking at an array of factors, including prevention and detection, immunotherapies, the use of artificial intelligence to speed drug discovery and development, and several other topics.

"At Rice, we are strong on the fundamental side of research in organic chemistry, chemical biology, bioengineering and nanomaterials,” Xiao says in the statement. “Starting at the laboratory bench, we can synthesize therapeutic molecules and proteins with atom-level precision, offering immense potential for real-world applications at the bedside ... But the clinicians and fundamental researchers don’t have a lot of time to talk and to exchange ideas, so SynthX wants to serve as the bridge and help make these connections.”

SynthX plans to issue its first merit-based seed grants to teams with representatives from Baylor and Rice this month.

With this recognition from Rice, the teams from Xiao's lab and the TMC will also be able to expand and formalize their programs. They will build upon annual retreats, in which investigators can share unpublished findings, and also plan to host a national conference, the first slated for this fall titled "Synthetic Innovations Towards a Cure for Cancer.”

“I am confident that the SynthX Center will be a great resource for both students and faculty who seek to translate discoveries from fundamental chemical research into medical applications that improve people’s lives,” Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, says in the release.

Rice announced that it had invested in four other research centers along with SynthX last month. The other centers include the Center for Coastal Futures and Adaptive Resilience, the Center for Environmental Studies, the Center for Latin American and Latinx Studies and the Rice Center for Nanoscale Imaging Sciences.

Earlier this year, Rice also announced its first-ever recipients of its One Small Step Grant program, funded by its Office of Innovation. The program will provide funding to faculty working on "promising projects with commercial potential," according to the website.

Houston physicist scores $15.5M grant for high-energy nuclear physics research

FUTURE OF PHYSICS

A team of Rice University physicists has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Physics for their work in high-energy nuclear physics and research into a new state of matter.

The five-year $15.5 million grant will go towards Rice physics and astronomy professor Wei Li's discoveries focused on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a large, general-purpose particle physics detector built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a European organization for nuclear research in France and Switzerland. The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to a statement from Rice.

Li's team will work to develop an ultra-fast silicon timing detector, known as the endcap timing layer (ETL), that will provide upgrades to the CMS detector. The ETl is expected to have a time resolution of 30 picoseconds per particle, which will allow for more precise time-of-flight particle identification.

The Rice team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas. Photo via Rice.edu

This will also help boost the performance of the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), which is scheduled to launch at CERN in 2029, allowing it to operate at about 10 times the luminosity than originally planned. The ETL also has applications for other colliders apart from the LHC, including the DOE’s electron-ion collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

“The ETL will enable breakthrough science in the area of heavy ion collisions, allowing us to delve into the properties of a remarkable new state of matter called the quark-gluon plasma,” Li explained in a statement. “This, in turn, offers invaluable insights into the strong nuclear force that binds particles at the core of matter.”

The ETL is also expected to aid in other areas of physics, including the search for the Higgs particle and understanding the makeup of dark matter.

Li is joined on this work by co-principal investigator Frank Geurts and researchers Nicole Lewis and Mike Matveev from Rice. The team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas.

Last year, fellow Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a theoretical quantum physicist, earned the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship grant. The five-year fellowship, with up to $3 million in funding, will go towards his work to establish an unconventional approach to create and control topological states of matter, which plays an important role in materials research and quantum computing.

Meanwhile, the DOE recently tapped three Houston universities to compete in its annual startup competition focused on "high-potential energy technologies,” including one team from Rice.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.