High-tech firetrucks are ready to serve the area that includes George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Photo courtesy of Houston Airports

Houston Airports and the Houston Fire Department will roll out a new fleet of eco-friendly and health-promoting vehicles this summer.

Four new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) trucks will be deployed at HFD Stations 99 and 92 near IAH. The vehicles were purchased with $4.6 million from the Airport Improvement Fund and will replace a fleet purchased in 2006.

One truck is already operating HFD Station 99. Others are expected to be operational by August, according to Houston Airports.

"The safety of passengers and crew at Bush Airport is our top priority," Steve Runge, director of operations for Houston Airports, says in a statement. "These new ARFF trucks represent a significant investment in the latest firefighting technology, ensuring the Houston Fire Department has the resources it needs to respond swiftly and effectively to any aircraft emergency while utilizing eco-friendly foam."

The vehicles feature several innovative features including:

  • Synthetic fluorine-free foam that extinguishes fires with minimal environmental impact
  • High-capacity water pumps that deliver up to 1,200 gallons of water per minute
  • Specialized rescue equipment for rescuing passengers and crew from crashes
  • Rosenbauer re-circulation air scrubber system that reduces firefighter’s exposure to carcinogenic toxins

They can carry 3,000 gallons of water, 400 gallons of foam, 450 pounds of Purple K dry-chemical and 460 pounds of Halotron to extinguish fires and rescue passengers and crew, according to Houston Airports.

"From the health of the firefighters to protecting people and property at Bush Airport, we appreciate this investment by Houston Airports,” Ronald Krusleski, senior captain and ARFF coordinator for the Houston Fire Department, adds.

Houston Airports also plans to build a 21,000-square-foot facility to replace the current HFD 92 at IAH that will include six apparatus bays, fire inspector and administrative offices, and direct access to the airfield, according to a statement. It'll be funded by $30 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Airport Infrastructure Grants for Fiscal Year 2024 from the FAA. Hobby Airport also received $15 million to demolish and reconstruct existing ARFF buildings.

Last year Houston Airports also received $12.5 million for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The projects included replacing existing generators and conducting an energy audit.
The study will look at improving sustainability within George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Photo courtesy of Airbus

Houston organizations launch study to explore hydrogen-powered travel

sustainability takes flight

A few major players have teamed up to look into making air travel more sustainable — and it's all happening in Houston.

The Center for Houston’s Future, Airbus, and Houston Airports have signed a memorandum of understanding intended to study the “feasibility of a hydrogen hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport." The study, which will conclude in March of 2025, will include the participants that will collaborate ways to rethink how their infrastructures could be designed and operated to reduce an overall environmental footprint, and lead to hydrogen-powered aircrafts like the ones Airbus plans to bring to fruition by 2035.

In 2020, Airbus debuted its ZEROe hydrogen-powered aircraft project. The “Hydrogen Hub at Airports'' concept by Airbus unites key airport ecosystem players to develop ways to decarbonize all airport-associated infrastructure with hydrogen. The study will include airport ground transportation, airport heating, end-use in aviation, and possibly ways to supply adjacent customers in transport and local industries.

The use of hydrogen to power future aircraft aims to assist in eliminating aircraft CO2 emissions in the air, and also can help decarbonize air transport on the ground. With Houston being such a large city, and a destination for some many visiting on business, the Houston airports was an easy spot to assign the study.

"Houston’s airports are experiencing tremendous growth, connecting our city to the world like never before,” Jim Szczesniak, the aviation director for the city of Houston, says in a news release. “As we continue to expand and modernize our facilities, participating in this sustainability study is crucial. Continuing to build a sustainable airport system will ensure a healthy future for Houston, attract top talent and businesses, and demonstrate our commitment to being a responsible global citizen.

"This study will provide us with valuable insights to guide our development and position Houston as a global leader in sustainable aviation innovation for generations to come.”

The CHF was a founding organizer of the HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, which was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of seven hydrogen hubs in the nation, and will work in the Houston area and the Gulf Coast. The HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub is eligible to receive up to $1.2 billion as part of a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to advance domestic hydrogen production.

“The Center for Houston’s Future is pleased to have played a crucial role in bringing together the partners for this study,” Brett Perlman, the center's outgoing CEO and president, adds. “With Houston’s role as the world’s energy capital, our record of energy innovation and desire to lead in the business of low-carbon energy, Houston is the perfect place to develop our airports as North American clean hydrogen pioneers.”

The renovations plans include updating both Houston airports. Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Houston Airports lines up $30 million for restroom renovations, including tech upgrades

coming soon

Houston Airports is making a major investment in helping travelers take care of one of their most basic needs. Over the next two years, the agency will invest $30 million in upgrading the bathrooms at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

The money will be used to upgrade restrooms throughout Hobby and at IAH’s Terminals A and D. Houston Airports notes the restrooms at IAH are about 20 years old. Houston Mayor John Whitmire had made the upgrades one of his priorities.

Plans for the renovations include replacing floors, walls, stalls, lighting, sinks, and counters. The new stalls will be larger, with enough room for a carry-on suitcase and a shelf to hold a person’s bag, and will better comply with ADA regulations. Even better, occupancy sensors for each stall will mean not having to look for feet when trying to determine if one is available.

“Houston Airports joins Mayor Whitmire in a shared strategic priority to make our passengers happy. Earlier this year, the mayor challenged Houston Airports to prioritize the renovation of our aging restrooms at both airports,” Houston Airports director of aviation Jim Szczesniak said in a statement. “We are committed to exceeding expectations and ensuring that Houston Airports offers a world-class travel experience for all passengers. The restroom renovation project is a significant step forward in achieving that goal.”

Overall, the upgrades will include:
  • IAH Terminal A: 18 restrooms, seven family restrooms, and a companion care changing room
  • IAH Terminal D: Five restrooms, one restroom in the Mother’s Room
  • HOU: 9 restrooms each in Departures and the Ticketing Lobby

A $10 million grant from the FAA will help subsidize the cost of the renovations.

As for IAH Terminals B, C, and E, United has agreed to upgrade them as well. Last year, United and Houston Airports agreed to invest $2.6 billion to upgrade Terminal B.

"In 2023, Houston Airports welcomed a record 60.1 million passengers, with a vast majority flying through Bush Airport,” Szczesniak added. “It’s imperative that Houston Airports continue improve existing infrastructure to meet increasing demand while aligning our terminals to meet the modern and sustainable design of the new IAH international terminal. The end result of these projects will be a more resilient and sustainable airport system that delivers an efficient passenger experience from curb to gate.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The new technology includes the addition of automated security lanes and high-tech scanners. Rendering courtesy of Houston Airports

City of Houston approves $13M for new security tech at renovated IAH​ terminal

hi, tech

A new terminal currently under construction at George Bush Intercontinental Airport just got the green light for new security technology.

This week, Houston City Council unanimously approved the funding for the new Mickey Leland International Terminal's security equipment. The Mickey Leland International Terminal Project is part of the $1.43 billion IAH Terminal Redevelopment Program, or ITRP, which is expected to be completed by early next year.

This new IAH International Terminal will feature an International Central Processor, or ICP, with state-of-the-art technology in a 17-lane security checkpoint — among the largest in the country — as well as ticket counters and baggage claim.

“Houston Airports strives to get passengers through TSA Security in 20 minutes or less. Today, we meet that goal at Bush Airport more than 90 percent of the time,” Jim Szczesniak, director of aviation for Houston Airports, says in a news release. “This investment in innovative technology will enhance our efficiency and ensure that our passengers have a world-class experience each time they visit our airports.”

Going through security at IAH is about to be smoother sailing. Rendering courtesy of Houston Airports

The funding approval came from two ordinances, and the first one appropriates $11.8 million from the Airports Improvement Fund to buy, service, install, and train staff on nine new automated screening lanes, called Scarabee Checkpoint Property Screening Systems, or CPSS.

Per the news release, each of these CCPS automated lanes "is capable of screening more than 100 additional people and bags/hour than existing equipment used today." Currently, Terminal D's TSA is using eight CPSS Lanes, so the additional nine lanes will bring the total to 17 lanes of security.

The other appropriates another $1.2 million from the Airports Improvement Fund to buy, install, maintain, and train staff on six new Advanced Imaging Technology Quick Personnel Security Scanners.

The new scanners, which don't require the traveler to raise their arms, "is capable of screening more than 100 additional people/hour than existing equipment used today," per the release.

“These new security screening machines are faster, have fewer false alarms and have improved detection rates, which creates a safer experience for our passengers and airlines,” Federal Security Director for TSA at IAH Juan Sanchez adds.

The Mickey Leland International Terminal originally opened in 1990 and is currently under renovation. Rendering courtesy of Houston Airports

Recently, Collins Aerospace announced its plans to build a facility at the Houston Spaceport — with 10,000 square feet dedicated to startup acceleration. Image via collinsaerospace.com

Newly announced Houston Spaceport project to include a startup incubator

one small step for man

A major aerospace company recently announced its new campus at the Houston Spaceport — and the company is dedicating a chunk of the new space to startups.

Collins Aerospace — a Charlotte, North Carolina-based company owned by Raytheon Technologies — announced its plans to build a new eight-acre, 120,000-square-foot campus for human space-related activity. And of that new campus, 10,000 square feet will be dedicated to an incubator supporting aerospace startups.

The city of Houston approved the deal last week, and the company will receive up to $25.6 million in financing from Houston Airports for capital improvements, according to a news release.

"Collins Aerospace's new campus is yet another a game-changer for Houston as we position our region as one of the country's leading next-generation tech and aerospace hubs," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a statement. "We are leveraging Houston's many advantages, including our dynamic workforce, to fuel the future of aerospace— a potentially trillion-dollar, 21st-century commercial space economy."

At a recent virtual event for Houston Tech Rodeo, Jimmy Spence, senior business development specialist at the Houston Spaceport, says the campus will be space flight focused and even include manufacturing of communication parts. It's be a project that's been a long time coming, he says.

"We want to provide the space — no pun intended — for these companies that are starting, to get their feet under them, to collaborate with the folks who can help them out and really get them going," he says at the event.

It's not the first time Collins Aerospace has expanded in Houston. The company's West Houston office is reportedly at capacity.

"On behalf of Collins Aerospace, I would like to thank the City of Houston, Houston Airports and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership for creating a robust business climate and for their strong support of this important expansion of our business," says Phil Jasper, president of Collins Aerospace's Mission Systems business unit, says in the release. "Building on our 40 years in the Houston community, this expansion will further strengthen collaboration with our customer to support spaceflight."

The new space, including the incubator, will allow for Collins Aerospace — and other corporate Houston Spaceport partners — to engage with startups and educational institutions to advance innovation.

"Collins Aerospace is a great fit at Houston Spaceport," Houston Airports Director Mario Diaz says in the release. "The partnership is a key element to realizing the importance of Houston Spaceport — a center for collaboration and innovation where the brightest minds in the world can lead us beyond the next frontier of space exploration."

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Houston cardiac health startup raises $43 million series B to grow AI-backed platform

money moves

A Houston-based tech company that has a product line of software solutions for cardiac health has raised funding.

Octagos Health, the parent company of Atlas AI — a software platform for cardiac devices like pacemakers, defibrillators, ambulatory monitors and consumer wearables — has announced a $43 million series B raise that will bring their technology to many more hearts.

Morgan Stanley Investment Capital led the investment, which also included funds from Mucker Capital and other continuing strategic investors. The goal of the raise is to supply funds to accelerate Atlas AI’s growth across the United States and to expand into other areas of care, including ambulatory monitors, consumer wearables, and sleep.

"This investment will enable us to accelerate enhancements to our platform, in addition to scaling our commercial team and operations. We are currently the only company that helps cardiology practices migrate their historical data from legacy software providers and fully integrates with any EHR (exertion heart rate) system. We do this while enabling customized reporting supported by patient and practice decision-support analytics," says Eric Olsen, COO of Octagos Health, in a press release.

Octagos Health was founded by a team of healthcare pros including CEO Shanti Bansal, a cardiologist and founder of Houston Heart Rhythm, an atrial fibrillation center. The goal was to find a new way to deal with the massive amount of data that clinicians encounter each day in a way that combines software and the work of human doctors.

According to the Octagos Health website, “Our solution allows clinicians to focus on other ways of delivering meaningful healthcare and more efficiently manage their remotely monitored patients.”

It works thanks to customizable reporting features that allow patients’ healthcare teams to get help while monitoring them, but to do it precisely as they would if they were crunching numbers themselves.

"We are excited to partner with Octagos Health and support their vision of transforming cardiac care," says Melissa Daniels, managing director of Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital. "Octagos Health has demonstrated exceptional growth and innovation in a critical area of healthcare. We believe their platform and vertically integrated software and services significantly improve patient care and streamline cardiac monitoring processes for healthcare providers."

Will Hsu, co-founder and partner of Mucker Capital, agrees. “Octagos Health is poised for scale – industry leading gross margins, a very sticky product that doctors and clinical staff love, and a market ready for disruption with artificial intelligence. This is the new wave for diagnostic care,” he says. And with this raise, it will be available to even more clinicians and patients across the country.

Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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 logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.