Two Houston-based companies made it into this new clean tech accelerator. Photo via greentownlabs.com

The Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator announced its inaugural class of clean tech startups — two of which hail from right here in Hosuton.

In all, seven startups have been chosen to participate this year in the Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator, which was announced in November. The six-month accelerator program offers collaboration and engagement opportunities with the Electric Power Research Institute and its member utilities, as well as with Shell. Through the accelerator, the institute and Shell will provide startups with two innovation paths: a technology validation track and a technology demonstration track.

The accelerator — part of the Green Go program, affiliated with Greentown Labs — is aimed at coming up with innovations in low-carbon hydrogen production, storage, and distribution.

“Accelerating low-carbon hydrogen technologies is an essential part of achieving global net-zero targets by 2050,” Neva Espinoza, vice president of energy supply and low-carbon resources at the Electric Power Research Institute, says in a news release.

The inaugural LCHA cohort includes:

  • Advanced Ionics, based in Milwaukee, is enabling green hydrogen production without the green premium.
  • Arco Technologies from Bologna, Italy, is developing a proprietary Anion Exchange Membrane electrolyzer with the lowest capital expenditures and operating expenses possible today.
  • Based in Manchester in the United Kingdom, Clean Power is developing a novel, low-cost, highly durable hydrogen polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell delivering zero-emission electricity.
  • Element Resources, based in Houston, is enabling compressed hydrogen storage tank technology.
  • Another local company, Smartpipe Technologies is developing a robust self-monitored repurposed pipeline system for hydrogen with minimal environmental disruption.
  • SPEC Sensors from California is creating a robust and reliable meshed sensor network for hydrogen leak detection and line-monitoring systems.
  • Canadian company RUNWITHIT Synthetics is creating a live, digital twin modeling platform that generates decision-support data for regional hydrogen-demand scenarios.

Element Resources, which produces hydrogen from renewables for mobility, power production, and energy storage, is collaborating with Zhifeng Ren, M.D. Anderson chair professor in physics and director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston.

The other Houston startup, Smartpipe Technologies, announced earlier this month that Canadian pipeline company Enbridge had made a $6.6 million investment in the startup.

For 2022, the accelerator received applications from 88 startups in 18 countries. The five other participants this year are from California; Wisconsin; Alberta, Canada; Italy; and the United Kingdom.

Aside from the Electric Power Research Institute, Shell USA, and Greentown, the accelerator’s partners are the City of Houston and the Urban Future Lab at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

“Creating a robust hydrogen economy will require a systems-oriented approach and unparalleled cooperation between corporate partners and emerging companies,” says Ryan Dings, chief operating officer and general counsel at Greentown Labs.

Greentown operates startup incubators in Somerville, Massachusetts, and Houston.

A new six-month accelerator program is looking to move the needle on the energy transition. Photo via greentownlabs.com

Houston organizations team up to accelerate startups with low-carbon solutions

greentown hou

Attention, innovators: A new initiative in Houston is searching for startups whose offerings can help reduce global carbon emissions.

The Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator is a partnership involving Greentown Labs, the Electric Power Research Institute, Shell Oil, the City of Houston, and New York University's Urban Future Lab. The accelerator is seeking applications from startups that are advancing low-carbon hydrogen production, enhancing hydrogen storage and distribution, or providing business models for management of hydrogen supply chains. Applications are due February 9, 2022.

"If we can improve the devices and processes that will be used to make, transport, and store clean hydrogen in the future, it can become a cost-competitive fuel. At the same time, these advances can improve the capacity factor of renewable generation, producing multiple economic and climate benefits," Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at the Urban Future Lab, says in a news release.

The six-month accelerator will enable startups to collaborate with the Electric Power Research Institute, utilities, and Shell on tech development, feasibility studies, pilot projects, and other low-carbon efforts.

The institute and Shell will provide startups two routes within the accelerate: a path for validation of their technology and a path for demonstration of their technology.

"Accelerating low-carbon hydrogen technologies is essential to achieving global net-zero targets by 2050," says Neva Espinoza, the institute's vice president of energy supply and low-carbon resources.

Shell foresees hydrogen playing a bigger role in hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as heavy-duty trucking, marine, aviation, chemicals, steel, and cement. Julie Ferland, vice president of innovation excellence at Houston-based Shell Oil, says programs such as the new accelerator will be critical to fostering low-carbon energy.

Earlier this year, after visiting Greentown Labs' Houston location, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and the U.S. Department of Energy launched the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per kilogram by 2030.

"As the Energy Capital of the World, I believe it is our responsibility to continue Houston's legacy of energy innovation and develop the technologies and practices needed to decarbonize the global energy sector," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says. "Houston has the skilled workforce and infrastructure to develop clean hydrogen at scale, and Greentown Labs' Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator is a great example of the kind of partnerships we need to make it happen."

Greentown Labs is the largest climatech startup incubator in North America. The Somerville, Massachusetts-based incubator recently opened its Houston location.

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Houston health tech startup secures $27M in financing

money moves

A virtual health care and analytics provider startup has closed its latest round of funding for a total of $27 million in financing.

Medical Informatics Corp. closed a $17 million series B co-led by Maryland-based Catalio Capital Management and California-based Intel Capital. The financing also includes an additional $10 million in debt led by Catalio through Catalio’s structured equity strategy, according to a news release.

“We are excited to have had this round co-led by Catalio and Intel Capital," says Emma Fauss, CEO and co-founder of MIC, in the release. "Catalio brings significant financial and technical resources, while Intel Capital possesses strong operational and industry experience, and we look forward to continuing to leverage both firms’ expertise as we continue to scale.”

MIC created an FDA-cleared virtual care platform, called Sickbay, that gives health care providers and hospitals away to remotely monitor patients in any setting with vendor-neutral real-time medical device integration, workflow automation and standardization.

“We have seen an increased demand for our solution as our clients face significant staffing challenges and are looking for ways to amplify and empower their workforce," Fauss says in the release. "Some of the largest health care systems in the country are standardizing their infrastructure on our Sickbay platform while consolidating IT spend."

Other participants in the round included new investors TGH Innoventures, Tampa General Hospital’s innovation center and venture fund, and Austin-based Notley — as well as existing investors San Francisco-based DCVC, the Texas Medical Center, and nCourage, a Houston-based investment group.

As a part of the round, two individuals from Catalio will join the board at MIC. Jonathan Blankfein, principal at Catalio will join the board of directors, Diamantis Xylas, head of research at Catalio, will join as board observer.

“Health care systems’ need for high-caliber, cost-saving, data-driven technology is only going to increase, and MIC’s proprietary platform is perfectly positioned to address some of the most critical clinical challenges that health care organizations face,” says Blankfein in the release. “We look forward to continuing to support MIC’s strong team as it continues to deliver better outcomes for health care organizations and patients alike.”

Amid the pandemic and the rising need for remote care technology, MIC scaled rapidly in the past two years. The company will use the funding to continue fueling its growth, including hiring specialized talent — deep product specialists and client engagement teams — to support long-term strategic partnerships.

“One of the main barriers to advanced analytics in health care is the siloing of data and today there is a significant need for a platform to enable flexible, centralized and remote monitoring at scale and on demand,” says Mark Rostick, vice president and senior managing director at Intel Capital, in the release. “Medical Informatics is setting a new standard of health care by removing these data silos for health care providers of all sizes and transforming the way patients are monitored from hospital to home with real-time AI.”

Innovation pioneers on why Pumps & Pipes is so uniquely Houston

A Day of Discussion

Pumps & Pipes 2022, Houston’s premier innovation event, is rapidly approaching on December 5 from 8 am-3 pm at the Ion.

Leading up to this exciting event, InnovationMap spoke with several of the speakers representing various industries to ask them, "What makes Pumps & Pipes uniquely Houston?"

Here are their responses:

Dr. Alan Lumsden, chair of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist and Pumps & Pipes founder:

“…What can we learn from one another? What is inside the other person’s toolkit? A lot of solutions are already out there but sometimes we don’t have the ability to see into their toolkit. This has become the driving force behind Pumps & Pipes throughout the last 15 years…”

Dr. Lucie Low, chief scientist for microgravity research at Axiom Space:

“‘Houston, we have a problem’ — everyone knows Houston as a major player in the aerospace industry as highlighted by this famous quote from Apollo 13. What people may not know and what is exciting to me about Houston are the opportunities for collaboration with other industries that can help drive our mission to build communities of healthy humans in space. With the largest medical center in the world right next to Johnson Space Center, Houston is a prime city for innovation at the intersection of medicine and space.”

David Horsup, managing director of technology at OGCI Climate Investments:

“The remarkable diversity of thought, culture, and expertise that exists in Houston creates an incredible cauldron for innovation. The city has been the leading light in pushing frontiers in energy, aerospace, and medicine for many years, and Pumps & Pipes is a powerful ‘node’ for some of the brightest minds across these industries to connect, collaborate, and innovate. I am extremely excited to see how Houston is pivoting to embrace the challenge that climate change is presenting, and the city will play a defining role going forward.”

Purchase tickets for Pumps & Pipes here and follow Pumps & Pipes on social media at LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

Houston startup founders report on clean energy tech efficacy

seeing results

A team from Rice University has uncovered an inexpensive, scalable way to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel.

In research published this month in the journal Science, researchers from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics, in partnership with Syzygy Plasmonics Inc. and Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, detail how they converted ammonia into carbon-free fuel using a light-activated catalyst.

The new catalyst separates the liquid ammonia into hydrogen gas and nitrogen gas. Traditional catalysts require heat for chemical transformations, but the new catalyst can spur reactions with just the use of sunlight or LED light.

Additionally, the team showed that copper-iron antenna-reactors could be used in these light-driven chemical reactions, known as plasmonic photocatalysis. In heat-based reactions, or thermocatalysis, platinum, and related precious (and expensive) metals like palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium are required.

“Transition metals like iron are typically poor thermocatalysts,” Naomi Halas, a co-author of the report from Rice, said in a statement. “This work shows they can be efficient plasmonic photocatalysts. It also demonstrates that photocatalysis can be efficiently performed with inexpensive LED photon sources.”

Halas, Rice's Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was joined on the project by Peter Nordlander, Rice’s Wiess Chair and Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and Rice alumni and adjunct professor of chemistry Hossein Robatjazi. Emily Carter, the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and Environment, represented Princeton University.

“These results are a great motivator," Carter added. "They suggest it is likely that other combinations of abundant metals could be used as cost-effective catalysts for a wide range of chemical reactions.”

Houston-based Syzygy, which Halas and Nordlander founded in 2018, has licensed the technology used in the research and has begun scaled-up tests of the catalyst in the company’s commercially available, LED-powered reactors. According to Rice, the test at Syzygy showed the catalysts retained their efficiency under LED illumination and at a scale 500 times larger than in tests in the lab setup at Rice.

“This discovery paves the way for sustainable, low-cost hydrogen that could be produced locally rather than in massive centralized plants,” Nordlander said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Syzygy closed its $76 million series C round to continue its technology development ahead of future deployment/

Houston is home to many other organizations and researchers leading the charge in growing the hydrogen economy.

Earlier this year, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced he's determined to position the city as hub for hydrogen innovation as one of the EPA's Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs. Organizations in Texas, Southwest Louisiana and the surrounding Gulf Coast region, known and HyVelocity Hub, also announced this month that it would be applying for the regional funding.

And according to a recent report from The Center for Houston's Future, the Bayou City is poised to "lead a transformational clean hydrogen hub with global impact."