Haleh Ardebili (left) has been appointed as assistant vice president of Entrepreneurship and Startup Ecosystem, and Michael Harold as assistant vice president for Intellectual Property and Industrial Engagements at the University of Houston. Photo via UH

Two professors have assumed new leadership roles in the University of Houston’s Office of Technology, Transfer, and Innovation.

Haleh Ardebili, the Kamel Salama Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been named assistant vice president of entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem. Michael Harold, Cullen Engineering Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been named assistant vice president for intellectual property and industrial engagements.

Ardebili and Harold “are both tested leaders in their respective areas —they are already contributing to our rich academic environment with their knowledge, expertise and commitment to innovation,” says Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, in a statement. “Having them helm our growing team will help UH continue its culture of innovation and contribution to society.”

In her new role, Ardebili will oversee entrepreneurship and startup efforts at UH. She will direct the startup and entrepreneurship staff within the Office of Technology, Transfer, and Innovation (OTTI).

Ardebili, who joined the university in 2004, previously was director of the Cullen College of Engineering’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

In his new role, Harold will lead the university’s technology transfer activities. He will direct the OTTI licensing and IP management staff.

Harold worked at DuPont in various technical and managerial positions between 1993 and 2000. He joined UH in 2000 as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. He served as chair until 2008 and again from 2013 to 2020.

“Both positions will play integral roles in increasing faculty engagement, facilitating innovations from research labs to market, and enhancing collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. These appointments underscore UH’s commitment to driving innovation, economic development, and industry partnerships,” the university says in the release.

The projects are among 16 other early-stage research projects at U.S. colleges and universities to receive a total of $17.4 million from the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

3 UH projects land $17.4M in DOE funding for early-stage research

follow the money

Three projects from the University of Houston have been awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Energy for research on decarbonization and emissions.

The projects are among 16 other early-stage research projects at U.S. colleges and universities to receive a total of $17.4 million from the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM).

“These three projects show the relevance and quality of the research at UH and our commitment to making a meaningful impact by addressing society’s needs and challenges by doing critical work that impacts the real world,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, says in a statement. “The success of these project could attract investment, create jobs, produce clean energy, save costs, reduce carbon emissions, and benefit not only the greater Houston area, but the Gulf Coast and beyond.”

The projects were selected under FECM’s University Training and Research program, which aims to support "research and development opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities and tap into the innovative and diverse thinking of student researchers," according to an announcement from the DOE.

Here are the projects from UH and their funding amounts:

A Comprehensive Roadmap for Repurposing Offshore Infrastructure for Clean Energy Projects in the Gulf of Mexico, $749,992 — Led by Ram Seetharam, UH Energy program officer, this project looks at ways to prolong the life of platforms, wells and pipelines in the Gulf Coast and will create a plan "covering technical, social, and regulatory aspects, as well as available resources," according to UH.

Houston Hydrogen Transportation Pilot, $750,000— Led by Christine Ehlig-Economides, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen, and managed by Joe Powell, this project will demonstrate the potential for a hydrogen refueling pilot in Houston. The first phase will create a system to optimize hydrogen and the second will create a workforce training network. The project is in collaboration with Prairie View A&M University.

Synergizing Minority-Serving Institution Partnerships for Carbon-Negative Geologic Hydrogen Production, $1.5 million — This project is in collaboration with Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and Texas Tech. The project will create a visiting scholars program for students from UH and TTU, who will spend one month per year at Stanford for three years. While in the program, students will focus on creating carbon-negative hydrogen from rocks beneath the Earth's surface. Kyung Jae Lee, associate professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering at UH, is working alongside colleagues at TTU and Stanford on this project.

Other projects in the group come from the University of Texas at El Paso, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Tennessee State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Duke University and more.

Last year the DOE also awarded $2 million to Harris and Montgomery counties for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region. Click here to read about those projects.

The DOE also granted more than $10 million in funding to four carbon capture projects with ties to Houston last summer.
The ultimate who's who of 2023 — these are our favorite Houston Innovators Podcast guests of last year. Photos courtesy

Editor's Picks: 7 favorite Houston Innovator Podcast episodes of 2023

year in review

Editor's note: In 2023, I recorded 50 episodes of the Houston Innovators Podcast — a weekly discussion with a Houston innovator, startup founder, investor, and more. I've rounded up seven podcast episodes that stood out for me looking back at the year of recordings. Scroll through to see whom I selected and stream their individual episodes, and tune into the last episode of the year where I explain why I enjoyed each conversation.



Episode 174 - Rolling out nationwide - Mike Francis and Carrie Horazeck of NanoTech

NanoTech's Chief Commercial Officer Carrie Horazeck and Co-Founder and CEO Mike Francis join the Houston Innovators Podcast to celebrate the nationwide launch of their roof coating product. Photo via LinkedIn

A Houston startup is celebrating its nationwide launch of its flagship product that coats roofs to reduce energy waste.

NanoTech's Nano Shield Cool Roof Coat is a unique product that can be added onto roofs to reduce energy waste on buildings. Co-founder and CEO Mike Francis and Chief Commercial Officer Carrie Horazeck joined the Houston Innovators Podcast to share more details about the product.

"It's just a coating that can go on top of existing structure — any type of commercial roof," Horazeck says on the show. "We have a pretty good amount of data from 2022 showcasing that we can reduce HVAC consumption within the building by about 30 to 40 percent.

"Our clients really see a immediate benefit in their energy bill, and, of course, if you reduce the HVAC consumption, that automatically translates to a decrease in your scope one emissions," she continues. Continue reading.


Episode 181 - Gearing up for high-speed global travel - Sassie Duggleby of Venus Aerospace

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby of Venus Aerospace joins the Houston Innovators Podcast this week. Photo courtesy of Venus

Sarah "Sassie" Duggleby is on a mission to get people home in time for dinner — whether they are traveling around the world or working for her business. That's why she founded Venus Aerospace, which is developing hypersonic space planes. It's also why she relocated the company from the West Coast to Houston.

"We knew we had to find a location where we could test our engine and still be home for dinner," Duggleby says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Our company vision is 'home for dinner.' We want to fly you across the globe and have you home for dinner. And, if you work for us, we want you home for dinner."

Venus's technology enables this revolutionary travel through its supersonic combustion engine — more akin to a rocket's engine than an airplane's — that allows for travel at a higher elevation, she explains on the show. Jet engines rely on air outside of the aircraft to combust, and rocket engines work with a system that supplies air internally. And, as Duggleby explains, the engine can go further with the same amount of fuel, so it's a more sustainable way of traveling too. Continue reading.


Episode 182 - Stopping neurodegenerative diseases in their tracks - Howard Berman of Coya Therapeutics

For Howard Berman, CEO and co-founder of Coya Therapeutics, commercializing his company is personal. Photo courtesy of Coya

When Howard Berman sought out renowned Houston Methodist researcher and neurologist Dr. Stanley Appel, he was looking for treatment for his father, who was suffering from dementia. He wasn't looking for a job, but Dr. Appel had other ideas and asked Berman to meet with him.

"I was interested in what I could do for my dad," Berman says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, explaining how he took the meeting with Dr. Appel, who then presented him with some of his research. "By slide five my jaw had hit the ground.

"He had shown that he could stop the progression in one of his early trials of ALS," Berman says.

Not too long after that meeting, Berman, who founded digital health platform imaware, joined Dr. Appel to lead commercialization of Coya Therapeutics, a biotech startup that raised over $20 million in venture funding before going public a few months ago. Continue reading.


Episode 187 - Bridging the gap to innovation - Ramanan Krishnamoorti of University of Houston

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to talk about the university's dedication to helping the city become an innovative force. Photo via UH.edu

Ramanan Krishnamoorti has had a varied career in academia, from an engineering professor to nanotech research. While he never made the transition from researcher to entrepreneur, he managed to snag a CEO title at the university about a decade ago: Chief energy officer.

Since then his role has expanded to include advancing UH's innovation of all kinds — from health tech to the arts — as vice president of energy and innovation at UH. In his role, he oversees the UH Technology Bridge, a lab and coworking space for tenants just a short drive away from UH's main campus, as well as future plans, like a new central campus hub for innovation that's in its early stages of development.

"What we really need at the university today is to bring innovation — which tech transfer is a piece of — and connect that to real-world challenges to deliver what the world needs, which is talented folks delivering new innovative, entrepreneurial, or intrapreneurial programs," Krishnamoorti says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. Continue reading.

Episode 193 - Innovating in the East End - Erik Ibarra of Magnolia Fund and ORDRS

Erik Ibarra's latest venture is to give agency to residents in the neighborhood he grew up in. Photo courtesy

Innovation isn't always tinkering with tech or programming software, although serial entrepreneur Erik Ibarra knows that world well. Sometimes it's about rethinking how a community improves and develops without doing the residents a disservice.

That's why Ibarra started Magnolia Fund, a mission-driven investment fund dedicated to enriching the East End community and preserving the neighborhood's culture and history. Ibarra, who has lived in the area the majority of his life, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, that he's looking to turn residents into investors.

"Our investors from the neighborhood, today they walk around and look at their house and say, 'I own that,' and that's great," Ibarra says. "In the future, our investors should be able to say that, and then point to a building and say, 'I own a portion of that building too. And I helped that small business over there.'" Continue reading.


Episode 198 - The undeniable impact of AI - Anshumali Shrivastava of ThirdAI CorpEpisode 198 - The undeniable impact of AI - Anshumali Shrivastava of ThirdAI Corp

Anshumali Shrivastava joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to share the revolutionary work ThirdAI is doing for artificial intelligence. Photo via rice.edu

Anshumali Shrivastava's career has evolved alongside the rise of artificial intelligence. Now, he believes his company represents the future of the industry's widespread implementation.

Shrivastava, who's also a professor at Rice University, founded ThirdAI, pronounced "third eye," in 2021 to democratize artificial intelligence through software innovations. As Shrivastava explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast, AI processes have historically been run on larger, less accessible computing hardware. ThirdAI's tools are able to run on a regular central processing unit, or CPU, rather than the more powerful graphics processing unit, or GPU.

"We focus on the problems that people are facing in the current AI ecosystem," Shrivastava says on the podcast. "Right now, if you are to build some of the large-language models and (linear programming) models, you need a lot of computing power, dedicated engineers to move it, and, even if you are using fully managed services, it's costly and there are a lot of privacy implications because you have to move data around." Continue reading.


Episode 212 - The 'frivolous' lawsuit over DEI funding - Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore of Hello Alice

Hello Alice Co-Founders Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore join the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the lawsuit they're facing. Photo courtesy Cayce Clifford/Hello Alice

For years, Hello Alice has been helping small businesses across the country get equitable access to funding and support. Now, the Houston tech company is facing its own obstacle: An affirmative action lawsuit.

"I don't think in a million years that we ever expected anything like this," Elizabeth Gore, co-founder and president of Hello Alice, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "There's surprise, then there's fear, and then there's anger. But now on the other side of it, we're emboldened, confident, and more passionate than ever."

America First Legal's lawsuit against Hello Alice and its partner, Progressive Insurance, alleges that their program to award10 $25,000 grants to Black-owned small businesses constitutes racial discrimination. AFL was founded by former Trump Administration adviser Stephen Miller and features a handful of other former White House officials on its board. Continue reading.

The University of Houston has teamed up with Chevron for a new fellowship program, which just announced its first class. Photo courtesy of UH.edu

University of Houston reveals inaugural cohort of energy research fellows

powered by chevron

The University of Houston has named eight graduate students to its first-ever cohort of UH-Chevron Energy Graduate Fellows.

The PhD and doctoral students will each receive a one-year $12,000 fellowship, along with mentoring from experts at UH and Chevron.

“The UH-Chevron Energy Fellowship program is an exciting opportunity for our graduate students to research the many critical areas that impact the energy industry, our communities and our global competitiveness,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti UH's Vice President for Energy and Innovation says in a statement.

“Today’s students not only recognize the importance of energy, but they are actively driving the push for affordable, reliable, sustainable and secure energy and making choices that clearly indicate that they are meaningfully contributing to the change,” he continues.

Their work focuses on energy-related research in fields ranging from public policy to geophysics and math. The fellowship is funded by Chevron.

“We love that Chevron is sponsoring this group of fellows because it’s a fantastic way for us to get involved with the students who are working on some of the biggest problems we’ll face in society,” Chevron Technology Ventures President Jim Gable adds.

The 2023 UH-Chevron Energy Graduate Fellows are:

The PhD and doctoral students will each receive a one-year $12,000 fellowship, along with mentoring from experts at UH and Chevron. Photo via UH.edu

Kripa Adhikari, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering. Her work focuses on thermal regulation in enhanced geothermal systems. She currently works under the mentorship of Professor Kalyana Babu Nakshatrala and previously worked as a civil engineer with the Nepal Reconstruction Authority.

Aparajita Datta, a researcher at UH Energy and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science. Her work focuses on the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a redistributive welfare policy designed to help households pay their energy bills. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in India, and master’s degrees in energy management and public policy from UH. She also recently worked on a paper for UH about transportation emissions.

Chirag Goel, a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering at UH. His work focuses on using High Temperature Superconductors (HTS) to optimize manufacturing processes, which he says can help achieve carbon-free economies by 2050. The work has uses in renewable energy generation, electric power transmission and advanced scientific applications.

Meghana Idamakanti, a third-year Ph.D. student in the William A. Brookshire Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her work focuses on using electrically heated steam methane for cleaner hydrogen production. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India in 2020 and previously worked as a process engineering intern at Glochem Industries in India.

Erin Picton, an environmental engineering Ph.D. student in the Shaffer Lab at UH. Her work focuses on ways to increase the sustainability of lithium processing and reducing wasted water and energy. “I love the idea of taking waste and turning it into value,” she said in a statement. She has previously worked in collaboration with MIT and Greentown Labs, as chief sustainability officer of a Houston-based desalination startup; and as a visiting graduate researcher at Argonne National Lab and at INSA in Lyon, France.

Mohamad Sarhan, a Ph.D. student and a teaching assistant in the Department of Petroleum Engineering. His work focuses on seasonal hydrogen storage and the stability of storage candidates during hydrogen cycling. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in petroleum engineering from Cairo University

Swapnil Sharma, a Ph.D. student in the William A. Brookshire Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His work has been funded by the Department of Energy and focuses on thermal modeling of large-scale liquid hydrogen storage tanks. He works with Professor Vemuri Balakotaiah. He holds bachelor's and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He also developed one of the world’s highest fiber-count optical fiber cables while working in India and founded CovRelief, which helped millions of Indians find resources about hospital beds, oxygen suppliers and more during the pandemic.

Larkin Spires, who's working on her doctoral research in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Her work focuses on a semi-empirical Brown and Korringa model for fluid substitution and the ties between geophysics and mathematics. She works under Professor John Castagna and holds a bachelor’s degree in math from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in geophysics from UH.

Earlier this month Evolve Houston also announced its first-ever cohort of 13 microgrant recipients, whose work aims to make EVs and charging infrastructure more accessible in some of the city's more underserved neighborhoods.

------

This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

A new program launched by two UH-based organizations will help early-stage startups commercialize, apply for grants, and more. Photo via UH.edu

University of Houston launches new collaborative program for startups in Houston, Gulf Coast Region

ready to grow

Two University of Houston organizations have partnered up to further support early-stage startups in the Gulf Coast Region.

The university announced this month that its UH Technology Bridge and the UH Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center are now accepting applications for a new, collaborative program that will help innovators and entrepreneurs develop a pitch or commercialization plan. The program will also guide participants in applying for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants and other investments.

Applications are open to those with the university and across the region.

"We are excited to partner with the University of Houston Technology Bridge to provide this valuable support to early-tech startups in the Texas Gulf Coast region," Steven Lawrence, director of the UH Texas Gulf Coast SBDC Network, says in a statement. "Our program is designed to help innovators take their ideas to the next level and prepare for success in the marketplace."

"Our goal is to help innovators turn their ideas into successful businesses, and this partnership will help us achieve that goal," Tanu Chatterji, Associate Director of Startup Development at UH, echoes in the news release.

The UH Texas Gulf Coast SBDC Network is one of 14 SBDCs in the Texas Gulf Coast Region that's part of UH's C.T. Bauer College of Business and funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The centers provide no-cost and affordable business training and advising.

The UH Tech Bridge focuses on providing research and development space to UH-affiliated startups and entrepreneurs. The 15-building complex and its 31,000 square feet of incubator space houses more than 20 small companies and startups that provide internship and learning opportunities for UH students, along with several federally funded research centers and institutes.

Earlier this year, the Tech Bridge received a $2.875 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant is slated to benefit the UH Industry & International Innovation Hub and will establish The Deck Innovation & Coworking Center.

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, the vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston who oversees the UH Technology Bridge, spoke with the Houston Innovators Podcast earlier this summer about UH's plans to build a central campus hub for innovation and the need to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship.
Students from the University of Houston are celebrating a win at a national competition focused on carbon innovation. Photo via UH.edu

University of Houston team places in prestigious DOE collegiate challenge

seeing green

A team of students from the University of Houston have placed in the top three teams for a national competition for the Department of Energy.

The inaugural American-Made Carbon Management Collegiate Competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, or FECM, tasked the student teams with "proposing regional carbon networks capable of transporting at least one million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from industrial sources," according to a news release from DOE.

“With this competition, DOE hopes to inspire the next generation of carbon management professionals to develop carbon dioxide transport infrastructure that will help drive technological innovation and emissions reductions, new regional economic development, and high-wage employment for communities across the United States,” Brad Crabtree, assistant secretary of fossil energy and carbon management at DOE, says in the release.

GreenHouston, the University of Houston team mentored by Assistant Professor Jian Shi from the UH Cullen College of Engineering, took third place in the competition, securing a $5,000 cash prize. Sequestration Squad of University of Michigan secured first place and $12,000 and Biggest Little Lithium of the University of Nevada won second and a $8,000 prize.

The UH team's proposal was for an optimized carbon dioxide transportation pipeline for the Houston area. The presentation included cost analysis, revenue potential, safety considerations, weather hazards, and social impact on neighboring communities, according to a release from UH.

“We chose the greater Houston metropolitan area as our target transition area because it is a global hub of the hydrocarbon energy industry,” says Fatemeh Kalantari, team leader, in the release.

“Our team was committed to delivering an optimized and cost-effective carbon dioxide transfer plan in the Houston area, with a focus on safety, environmental justice, and social engagement,” she continues. “Our goal is to ensure the health and safety of the diverse population residing in Houston by mitigating the harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions from refineries and industries in the area, thus avoiding environmental toxicity.”

With the third place win, GreenHouston will get to present their proposal at DOE’s annual Carbon Management Research Project Review Meeting slated for August.

"We are thrilled to see the exceptional work and dedication displayed by the GreenHouston team in this competition," said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at UH. "The team’s innovative proposal exemplifies UH’s commitment to addressing the pressing global issue of carbon management and advancing sustainable practices. We wish the students continued success."

The team included four Cullen College of Engineering doctoral students from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – Kalantari, Massiagbe Diabate, Steven Chen, and Simon Peter Nsah Abongmbo – and one student, Bethel O. Mbakaogu, pursuing his master’s degree in supply chain and logistics technology.

The prize money will go toward funding additional research, refining existing technologies, addressing remaining challenges and raising awareness of CCUS and its project, according to the release, as the team feels a responsibility to continue to work on the GreenHouston project.

“The energy landscape by 2050 will be characterized by reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air quality, and a more sustainable environment,” Kalantari says. “The transition to green energy will not only mitigate the harmful effects of carbon dioxide on climate change but also create new jobs, promote economic growth, and enhance energy security. This is important, and we want to be part of it.”

The team of students plans to continue to work on the GreenHouston project.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

TMC names latest cohort of health tech innovators for 2024 program

ready to grow

The Texas Medical Center Innovation has named its new cohort of health tech companies it's currently accelerating.

This first batch of companies for 2024 was selected from last fall's TMC Bootcamp. Eight of the 10 startups from the bootcamp have moved on to the Accelerator for HealthTech.

"Hailing from diverse corners of the globe—from the tech corridors of Texas and California to Ireland and Australia—these companies converge with a shared mission—to move healthcare forward," Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for Health Tech, writes in a TMC blog post. "Through personalized mentorship and guidance, these eight companies are able to navigate complex challenges and refine their strategies, while leveraging the expertise of Texas Medical Center ecosystem to validate their innovations and drive real-world impact."

The selected companies include:

  • AcorAI, from Stockholm, Sweden, which is developing a first-of-its-kind, hand-held, scalable medical device for non-invasive intracardiac pressure monitoring to improve heart failure management for more than 64 million patients worldwide.
  • AirSeal, based in St. Louis, Missouri, which has developed a novel serum-based biomarker technology – circulating fatty acid synthase (cFAS) – that can diagnose cardiovascular and peripheral artery disease with high accuracy in both women and men.
  • Foxo, headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, serves as an interoperable tool designed to enhance clinical collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem. It enables secure, two-way communication with features such as video, voice, screen share, file sharing, and real-time messaging.
  • San Francisco-based Knowtex, an artificial intelligence-powered software writes medical documentation for you and assigns correct codes to ensure proper reimbursement.
  • NeuroBell, from Cork, Ireland, which is working on a novel medical device providing portable EEG monitoring with real-time and automated neonatal seizure alerts at the bedside.
  • Perth, Australia-based OncoRes Medical that's developing an intraoperative imaging technology to provide surgeons with real-time assessment of tissue microstructure.
  • From right here in Houston, Steradian Technologies, which has created RUMI, the first noninvasive, fully portable infectious disease diagnostic that costs the price of a latte. It uses novel photon-based detection to collect and diagnose infectious diseases in breath within 30 seconds.
  • TYBR, also based in Houston, created a flowable extracellular matrix hydrogel, crafted to safeguard healing tendons and ligaments from scarring and adhesions. The company originated from the TMCi’s Biodesign fellowship and now has entered into the Accelerator for HealthTech to sharpen its regulatory strategy, particularly in anticipation of FDA conversations.

Applications for the next Accelerator for HealthTech will open in May of this year.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Welcome to another Monday edition of Innovators to Know. Today I'm introducing you to three Houstonians to read up about — three individuals behind recent innovation and startup news stories in Houston as reported by InnovationMap. Learn more about them and their recent news below by clicking on each article.

Ryan DuChanois, co-founder and CEO at Solidec

Ryan DuChanois pitched his company Solidec at CERAWeek, and took home a prize of $25,000. Photo via Solidec/LinkedIn

For the third year, the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Institute hosted its startup pitch competition at CERAWeek by S&P Global. A dozen startups walked away with recognition — and three some with cash prizes.

Houston-based Solidec won the top prize for the TEX-E pitches. The company, which is working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, won first place and $25,000. Ryan DuChanois, co-founder and CEO, pitched at the event.

"This prize will help us scale up our technology from the lab at Rice University and ultimately fulfill our mission of capturing yesterday's emissions and generating tomorrow's fuels," the company writes in a post on LinkedIn. Read more.

Stephanie Campbell and Diana Murakhovskaya, co-founders and general partners of The Artemis Fund

Diana Murakhovskaya and Stephanie Campbell are co-founders of The Artemis Fund, a Houston-based, female founder-focused venture capital firm that just announced its $36 million fund II. Photo courtesy of Artemis

In 2019, Stephanie Campbell saw an opportunity in the market — investing in women-led startups, something that wasn't happening at the volume it should have been.

"When we looked around, we really wanted to solve the problem of why women only receive 2 percent of venture capital," Campbell says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

As angel investors, Campbell and Diana Murakhovskaya, co-founders and general partners of The Artemis Fund, saw tons of promising women-led businesses. Read more.

2 Houston cleantech companies named to top 10 ranking of innovative energy

high impact

A pair of Houston energy startups have been named among the 10 most innovative energy companies for 2024.

Fast Company magazine just placed Fervo Energy and Syzygy Plasmonics on its energy innovation list. In all, 606 companies and organizations across a variety of industries were recognized for “reshaping industries and culture.”

Fervo produces carbon-free geothermal energy. Its existing geothermal project is in Nevada, and it’s building a geothermal project in Utah. The company recently raised $244 million.

“Solar and wind are cheap, but they don’t provide the kind of always-on dispatchable electricity that hydropower, hydrogen, and nuclear do; even at current high prices, enhanced geothermal is still cheaper than those other sources,” Fast Company notes.

The Fast Company accolade comes shortly after Time and Statista named Fervo one of the top greentech companies for 2024.

By relying on light rather than combustion to generate chemical reactions, Syzygy is taking on the use of fossil fuels in the chemical industry, Fast Company points out. Fossil fuels account for about 18 percent of the world’s industrial CO2 emissions.

Fast Company outlines some of Syzygy’s accomplishments in 2023:

  • Gained an undisclosed amount of funding from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
  • Completed its Pearland manufacturing facility.
  • Wrapped up 1,000 cumulative hours of testing on its ammonia-splitting reactor cell, capable of producing 200 kilograms of hydrogen per day.