Six members of the UH community participated in the inaugural Innov8 Hub's Innovators to Founders Cohort. Photo via UH.edu

A new accelerator at the University of Houston recently wrapped its first program for a cohort of five early-stage startups.

Known as the Innov8 Hub's Innovators to Founders Cohort, the accelerator is a founder-driven program in partnership with the UH Technology Bridge, the Innovation Center, and the Texas Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Innov8 is designed to aid six to eight aspiring entrepreneurs bring their concepts to market and assist them in applying for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants.

Founders recently showcased their work before potential partners and investors at the hub's first-ever Startup Pitch Day following the conclusion of the 12-week program.

“The goal of the programs is for the founders to launch new ventures and develop business plans they can use to raise money and attract C-suite level employees to join their team,” Tanu Chatterji, associate director of startup development at Tech Bridge and co-founder of Innov8 Hub, said in a statement. “These programs aren’t classroom-teacher driven so the founders have to commit to engage and spend the time necessary to reap the benefits.”

The Innovators to Founders Cohort runs for three months each semester. Cohort members will devote three hours each week to the program. Photo via UH.edu

The inaugural cohort included:

Shoujun Xu, UForce Biotechnology: Xu is a chemistry professor at UH and has developed a new technique of super-resolution force spectroscopy, or SURFS, and plans to launch his company, UForce Biotechnology, in the future. He aims to use the SURFS technique to advance drug screening. His pitch at the Startup Pitch Day was named the best of the night, and Xu went home with $7,500 in legal services and one year of coworking space free of charge.

Easy Anyama, ODX Health: Anyama is a fourth-year student in the UH College of Optometry. His company, ODX Health, aims to improve "data harmonization, interoperability and integration in eyecare to reduce inefficiencies and enhance health outcomes," according to UH.

Jeremy Tee and Easy Anyama, Ringit: Anyama joined fellow fourth-year student in the UH College of Optometry Jeremy Tee in a second pitch, Ringit. The startup aims to provide a low-cost medication management solution for the visually impaired. It is developing an adaptive labeling system that helps the visually impaired identify their medication and dosages independently via intuitive, "touch-based features," according to UH.

Jan Beetge, AltiSora: Beetge has developed "Botox for wood." The product is made from high- sustainability raw materials that are non-hazardous and non-toxic. Potential applications include waterproofing of electronic equipment or electrical cables or connections in cables, such as cables used in marine applications, according to the company's website.

Jason Shi, Smart Planter Project: Shi is developing a "high-tech planter, a device that autonomously takes care of your plants and keeps them healthy while you’re gone," according to UH. He aims to soon test the product with customers.

The Innovators to Founders Cohort runs for three months each semester. Cohort members will devote three hours each week to the program.

The Innov8 Hub also offers an SBIR/STTR Support Cohort and a WKI Program for Student Entrepreneurial Support Cohort.

Last year, UH also named eight graduate students to its first-ever UH-Chevron Energy Graduate Fellows cohort.
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.
Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston college lands $5M NASA grant to launch new aerospace research center

to infinity and beyond

The University of Houston was one of seven minority-serving institutions to receive a nearly $5 million grant this month to support aerospace research focused on extending human presence on the moon and Mars.

The $4,996,136 grant over five years is funded by the NASA Office of STEM Engagement Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO) program. It will go toward creating the NASA MIRO Inflatable Deployable Environments and Adaptive Space Systems (IDEAS2) Center at UH, according to a statement from the university.

“The vision of the IDEAS2 Center is to become a premier national innovation hub that propels NASA-centric, state-of-the-art research and promotes 21st-century aerospace education,” Karolos Grigoriadis, Moores Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of aerospace engineering at UH, said in a statement.

Another goal of the grant is to develop the next generation of aerospace professionals.

Graduate, undergraduate and even middle and high school students will conduct research out of IDEAS2 and work closely with the Johnson Space Center, located in the Houston area.

The center will collaborate with Texas A&M University, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Stanford University.

Grigoriadis will lead the center. Dimitris Lagoudas, from Texas A&M University, and Olga Bannova, UH's research professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Space Architecture graduate program, will serve as associate directors.

"Our mission is to establish a sustainable nexus of excellence in aerospace engineering research and education supported by targeted multi-institutional collaborations, strategic partnerships and diverse educational initiatives,” Grigoriadis said.

Industrial partners include Boeing, Axiom Space, Bastion Technologies and Lockheed Martin, according to UH.

UH is part of 21 higher-education institutions to receive about $45 million through NASA MUREP grants.

According to NASA, the six other universities to received about $5 million MIRO grants over five years and their projects includes:

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Microplastics Research and Education Center
  • California State University in Fullerton: SpaceIgnite Center for Advanced Research-Education in Combustion
  • City University of New York, Hunter College in New York: NASA-Hunter College Center for Advanced Energy Storage for Space
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee: Integrative Space Additive Manufacturing: Opportunities for Workforce-Development in NASA Related Materials Research and Education
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark:AI Powered Solar Eruption Center of Excellence in Research and Education
  • University of Illinois in Chicago: Center for In-Space Manufacturing: Recycling and Regolith Processing

Fourteen other institutions will receive up to $750,000 each over the course of a three-year period. Those include:

  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Puerto Rico in San Juan
  • Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks
  • University of the Virgin Islands in Charlotte Amalie
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • Satellite Datastreams

NASA's MUREP hosted its annual "Space Tank" pitch event at Space Center Houston last month. Teams from across the country — including three Texas teams — pitched business plans based on NASA-originated technology. Click here to learn more about the seven finalists.

Booming Houston suburb, other Texas towns among the fastest-growing U.S. cities in 2023

by the numbers

One Houston suburb experienced one of the most rapid growth spurts in the country last year: Fulshear, whose population grew by 25.6 percent, more than 51 times that of the nation’s growth rate of 0.5 percent. The city's population was 42,616 as of July 1, 2023.

According to U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2023 Population Estimates, released Thursday, May 16, Fulshear — which lies west of Katy in northwest Fort Bend County - ranked No. 2 on the list of fastest-growing cities with a population of 20,000 or more. It's no wonder iconic Houston restaurants like Molina's Cantina see opportunities there.

The South still dominates the nation's growth, even as America’s Northeast and Midwest cities are rebounding slightly from years of population drops. The census estimates showed 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. were in the South — eight in Texas alone.

The Texas cities joining Fulshear on the fastest-growing-cities list are:

  • Celina (No. 1) with 26.6 percent growth (42,616 total population)
  • Princeton (No. 3) with 22.3 percent growth (28,027 total population)
  • Anna (No. 4) with 16.9 percent growth (27,501 total population)
  • Georgetown (No. 8) with 10.6 percent growth (96,312 total population)
  • Prosper (No. 9) with 10.5 percent growth (41,660 total population)
  • Forney (No. 10) with 10.4 percent growth (35,470 total population)
  • Kyle (No. 11) with 9 percent growth (62,548 total population)

Texas trends
San Antonio saw the biggest growth spurt in the United States last year, numbers-wise. The Alamo City added about 22,000 residents. San Antonio now has nearly 1.5 million people, making it the the seventh largest city in the U.S. and second largest in Texas.

Its population boom was followed by those of other Southern cities, including Fort Worth; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Fast-growing Fort Worth (978,000) surpassed San Jose, California (970,000) to become the 12th most populous city in the country.

Meanwhile, population slowed in the Austin area. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000), outpaced Austin (980,000), pushing the Texas capital to 11th largest city in the U.S. (barely ahead of Fort Worth).

Population growth in Georgetown, outside Austin, slowed by more than one-fourth its population growth in 2022, the report says, from 14.4 percent to 10.6 percent. It's the same story in the Central Texas city of Kyle, whose population growth decreased by nearly 2 percent to 9 percent in 2023.

Most populated cities
New York City with nearly 8.3 million people remained the nation's largest city in population as of July 1, 2023. Los Angeles was second at close to 4 million residents, while Chicago was third at 2.7 million and Houston was fourth at 2.3 million residents.

The 15 populous U.S. cities in 2023 were:

  1. New York, New York (8.3 million)
  2. Los Angeles, California (4 million)
  3. Chicago, Illinois (2.7 million)
  4. Houston, Texas (2.3 million)
  5. Phoenix, Arizona (1.7 million)
  6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1.6 million)
  7. San Antonio (1.5 million)
  8. San Diego, California (1.4 million)
  9. Dallas (1.3 million)
  10. Jacksonville, Florida (986,000)
  11. Austin (980,000)
  12. Fort Worth (978,000)
  13. San Jose (970,000)
  14. Columbus, Ohio (913,000)
  15. Charlotte, North Carolina (911,000)

Modest reversals of population declines were seen last year in large cities in the nation's Northeast and Midwest. Detroit, for example, which grew for the first time in decades, had seen an exodus of people since the 1950s. Yet the estimates released Thursday show the population of Michigan’s largest city rose by just 1,852 people from 631,366 in 2022 to 633,218 last year.

It's a milestone for Detroit, which had 1.8 million residents in the 1950s only to see its population dwindle and then plummet through suburban white flight, a 1967 race riot, the migration to the suburbs by many of the Black middle class and the national economic downturn that foreshadowed the city's 2013 bankruptcy filing.

Three of the largest cities in the U.S. that had been bleeding residents this decade staunched those departures somewhat. New York City, which has lost almost 550,000 residents this decade so far, saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year.

Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year, following a decline in the 2020s of almost 78,000 residents. Chicago, which has lost almost 82,000 people this decade, only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

And San Francisco, which has lost a greater share of residents this decade than any other big city — almost 7.5 percent — actually grew by more than 1,200 residents last year.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How this Houston clean energy entrepreneur is navigating geothermal's hype to 100x business growth

houston innovators podcast Episode 237

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.

And the bet has more than paid off. Since officially launching in 2017, Fervo Energy has raised over $430 million — most recently collecting a $244 million series D round. Even more impressive to Latimer — his idea for drilling horizontal wells works. The company celebrated a successful pilot program last summer by achieving continuous carbon-free geothermal energy production with Project Red, a northern Nevada site made possible through a 2021 partnership with Google.

Next up for Fervo is growing and scaling at around a 100x pace. While Project Red included three wells, Project Cape, a Southwest Utah site, will include around 100 wells with significantly reduced drilling cost and an estimated 2026 delivery. Latimer says there are a dozen other projects like Project Cape that are in the works.

"It's a huge ramp up in our drilling, construction, and powerplant programs from our pilot project, but we've already had tremendous success there," Latimer says of Project Cape. "We think our technology has a really bright future."

While Latimer looks ahead to the rapid growth of Fervo Energy, he says it's all due to the foundation he put in place for the company, which has a culture built on the motto, "Build things that last."

“You’re not going to get somewhere that really changes the world by cutting corners and taking short steps. And, if you want to move the needle on something as complicated as the global energy system that has been built up over hundreds of years with trillions of dollars of capital invested in it – you’re not going to do it overnight," he says on the show. "We’re all in this for the long haul together."