The two entities will collaborate on work focused on "fields of energy and climate; quantum computing and artificial intelligence; global health and medicine; and urban futures." Photo via Rice University

Rice University and Université Paris Sciences & Lettres signed a strategic partnership agreement last week that states that the two institutions will work together on research on some of today's most pressing subject matters.

According to an announcement made on May 13 in Paris, the two schools and research hubs will collaborate on work focused on "fields of energy and climate; quantum computing and artificial intelligence; global health and medicine; and urban futures."

The partnership allows Rice to expand its presence in France, after launching its Rice Global Paris Center about two years ago.

Université PSL consists of 11 top research institutes in France and 2,900 world-class researchers and 140 research laboratories.

“We are honored and excited to partner with Paris Sciences and Lettres University and join forces to advance bold innovation and find solutions to the biggest global challenges of our time,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches said in a statement. “The unique strengths and ambitions of our faculty, students, scholarship and research are what brings us together, and our passion and hope to build a better future for all is what will drive our partnership agenda. Representing two distinct geographic, economic and cultural regions known for ingenuity and excellence, Rice and PSL’s efforts will know no bounds.”

Rice and Université PSL plan to host conferences around the four research priorities of the partnership. The first took place last week at the Rice Global Paris Center. The universities will also biannually select joint research projects to support financially.

“This is a global and cross-disciplinary partnership that will benefit from both a bottom-up, research-driven dynamic and a top-down commitment at the highest level,” PSL President Alain Fuchs said in a statement. “The quality and complementarity of the researchers from PSL and Rice who mobilized for this event give us reason to believe that this partnership will get off to a rapid and productive start. It will offer a strong framework to all the PSL schools for developing collaborations within their areas of strength and their natural partners at Rice.”

Rice launched its Rice Global Paris Center in June 2022 in a historic 16th-century building in Le Marais. At the time it, the university shared that it was intended to support Rice-organized student programs, independent researchers, and international conferences, as well as a satellite and hub for other European research activity.

"Rice University's new home in the Marais has gone from an idea to a mature relative with a robust program of faculty research summits, student opportunities, cultural events and community engagement activities," Caroline Levander, Rice's global Vice President, said at the announcement of the partnership last week.

Click here to learn more about the Global Paris Center.

Last month, University of Houston also signed a memorandum of understanding with Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to focus on hydrogen energy solutions.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston jumps significantly on annual list of best places to live in 2024

by the numbers

Things are looking a little brighter for Houston as the city was recently named among the top 100 best places to live in U.S. News and World Report's "Best Places to Live" list for 2024-2025.

Previously, H-Town had shockingly plummeted toward the bottom of the list as No. 140 in the 2023-2024 rankings. But the latest report has placed Houston at No. 97, suggesting substantial improvements over the last year.

U.S. News annually measures 150 top American cities for their livability and ranks them based on four major indexes: quality of life, value, desirability, and job market.

New for the 2024-2025 report, U.S. News updated its methodology to analyze city-based data rather than metropolitan area data. Secondly, the report's annual survey decided to place greater weight on a city's "value and job market" while "weights for desirability and quality of life took a slight dip" on the grading scale.

"Rising concerns about career prospects, housing affordability and increased cost of goods and services are reflected in this year’s rankings," said U.S. News loans expert and reporter Erika Giovanetti in a press release. "While quality of life remains the top priority for many Americans, a city’s value and job market are becoming increasingly important for those looking for a place to live."

There's many factors that draw folks to Houston, among them our city's diversity, the highly esteemed schools, top universities, and much more. Houston is also a great place for retirees looking to settle down without compromising on the big city lifestyle. The city truly has something for everyone.

The good news continues: Houston additionally moved up two spots to take No. 8 on the report's Best Place to Live in Texas list for 2024. The Bayou City ranked No. 10 last year.

Elsewhere in Texas
The recent focus on city-based data was likely a major factor that fueled Houston's improvement in the statewide and national rankings, but it also favorably shifted nine other Texas cities.

Austin – which previously ranked No. 40 in last year's rankings – became the only city to represent the Lone Star State among the top 10 best places to live in 2024. The Texas Capital jumped up 31 spots to claim No. 9 nationally, due to its "high desirability and job market scores," the report said.

Three cities in the Rio Grande Valley also ranked higher than Houston, suggesting that South Texas may be a better place to live than East Texas. The border towns of McAllen (No. 48) and Brownsville (No. 87) climbed into the overall top 100 this year after formerly ranking No. 137 and No. 134 last year. Meanwhile, Corpus Christi moved up from No. 132 last year to No. 77 in 2024.

Naples, Florida won the gold medal as the No. 1 best place to live in the U.S. in 2024. Rounding out the top five are Boise, Idaho (No. 2); Colorado Springs, Colorado (No. 3); Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4); and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 5).

Here's how other Texas cities faired in 2024's Best Places to Live report:

  • No. 62 – El Paso (up from No. 128 last year)
  • No. 89 – San Antonio (up from No. 103 last year)
  • No. 95 – Dallas (up from No. 113 last year)
  • No. 99 – Beaumont (up from No. 131 last year)
  • No. 107 – Killeen (up from No. 122 last year)
The full report and its methodology can be found on realestate.usnews.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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.”

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 podcast with the founder of a fast-growing geothermal company, a human resources expert, and an outgoing climatetech CEO.

Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy

Tim Latimer, CEO and co-founder of Fervo Energy, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy of Fervo Energy

Geothermal energy has been growing in recognition as a major player in the clean energy mix, and while many might think of it as a new climatetech solution, Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo Energy, knows better.

"Every overnight success is a decade in the making, and I think Fervo, fortunately — and geothermal as a whole — has become much more high profile recently as people realize that it can be a tremendous solution to the challenges that our energy sector and climate are facing," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

In fact, Latimer has been bullish on geothermal as a clean energy source since he quit his job as a drilling engineer in oil and gas to pursue a dual degree program — MBA and master's in earth sciences — at Stanford University. He had decided that, with the reluctance of incumbent energy companies to try new technologies, he was going to figure out how to start his own company. Through the Stanford program and Activate, a nonprofit hardtech program that funded two years of Fervo's research and development, Latimer did just that. Read more.

Karen Leal, performance specialist at Insperity

Karen Leal, performance specialist at InsperityTime to think ahead, business owners. Here's what this expert thinks you need to prioritize. Photo courtesy

Not only is upskilling your workforce on a regular basis good for performance purposes, it also contributes to a positive company culture, writes Karen Leal, performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, in a guest column.

"Learning and development (L&D) programs give employees the resources to grow within their current role and ready them for their possible advancement into new positions and/or another role or function," she writes. "This development should be a collaborative effort with the employee to support the employee’s growth goals. L&D programs build and strengthen your organization’s learning culture, which encourages employees to lean into the overall corporate culture and promotes employee engagement."

She goes on to outline the major benefits when developing L&D programs that impact business success. Read more.

Kevin Knobloch, CEO of Greentown Labs

Kevin Knobloch is stepping down as Greentown Labs CEO, effective on July 31. Photo via LinkedIn

While not based full time in Houston, Kevin Knobloch has led Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, as president and CEO for the past several months. Last week, he announced he's stepping down.

Knobloch will continue in his role until the end of July 2024.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.” Read more.