Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

The Texas Medical Center has named its second cohort for its United Kingdom-focused health tech accelerator. Photo via TMC

16 digital health, medical device companies selected for UK, TMC accelerator

coming to Hou

For the second time, an accelerator backed by the United Kingdom and hosted by Texas Medical Center Innovation has named 16 companies to its new cohort.

In partnership with Innovate UK, TMC named the new cohort companies in an announcement this week. The companies are divided into two categories — digital health and medical device — and cover a wide range of specialties, from diagnostics and AI monitoring to non-surgical management and more.

The accelerator launched last year with its inaugural cohort with the mission of helping companies make their United States expansion by way of the TMC.

"The first cohort of startups in our accelerator program experienced TMC's capabilities in developing and advancing solutions through cross-collaboration with top minds in clinical care, commercialization and innovation," Devin Dunn, head of the Accelerator for Health Tech at TMC, says in a news release. "We are excited to continue our partnership with Innovate UK and welcome this second cohort to continue our efforts advancing life sciences technologies across the globe."

This year's program begins June 4 and will run through November. According to the TMC, last year's cohort had significant success tapping into the health tech ecosystem in Houston, including engaging with investors, setting up a go-to-market strategy, and making inaugural U.S.-based hires.

“Our Global Incubator Programme selects driven and ambitious innovators looking to scale their technologies globally," adds Jon Hazell, partnership manager for the North America and Global Incubator at Innovate UK. "We are excited for our second cohort of startups to join the programme, supported by the Texas Medical Center accelerator, where world-class mentors and programming will help our entrepreneurs understand and meet the requirements of different markets, and build the necessary partnerships, collaborations, and networks, facilitating their entry into global markets."

The selected medical device companies — and their technologies, as described by the TMC — include:

  • Cytecom – infectious diagnostic test, powered by cutting-edge optical electrophysiology, detects resistant bacteria in just 45 seconds, enabling doctors to prescribe targeted antibiotics in minutes instead of days
  • Heartfelt Technologies Ltd – the future of heart failure telemonitoring an automatic, AI supported, non-contact telemonitoring solution for heart failure patients
  • Neurovalens Ltd – creates wearable neurostimulaton devices that treat a range of conditions in an entirely non-invasive and drug-free way
  • Oxford Medical Products Limited – a proprietary hydrogel pill that acts as a non-surgical, non-pharmacological obesity treatment that will redefine the obesity treatment market
  • Phenutest – a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for urinary tract infection, that confirms infection and appropriate antimicrobial to prescribe within 60 minutes
  • Plexaa – world's first fully wearable, sensor controlled, bra insert that can deliver safe supraphysiological preconditioning to the breast skin the night before surgery at home
  • SolasCure Limited – a wound Gel that acts as a single, effective and easy-to-use solution to overcome the challenges to transform chronic wound care
  • Trueinvivo Limited – a proprietary dosimetry (radiation measurement) system to ensure the precision and accuracy of cancer radiotherapy

The selected digital health companies — and their technologies, as described by the TMC — include:

  • Axon Diagnostics – offers a suite of solutions to support the needs of modern day diagnostic imaging services, supporting happier lives for clinicians and helping deliver better diagnostic care for all
  • Kheiron Medical Technologies – regarded as a world leader in the development of AI-enabled cancer diagnostics and monitoring
  • KiActiv – a technology-enabled digital health model for behaviour change and self-care that rethinks exercise and makes everyday movement an effective personalized medicine for better clinical outcomes
  • Memory Lane Games – turns memories into games, offering care providers a simple, fun dementia engagement app designed to trigger positive memories and improve socialisation with caregivers and people living with dementia
  • NeuroVirt Limited – combines immersive VR, AI and computer vision to gamify rehabilitation and quantify patient impairment and improvement
  • Newton’s Tree – enables healthcare providers to procure, integrate, and monitor third party AI products as part of routine care pathways through its enterprise AI platform
  • SERG Technologies – uses patented sensor technology and artificial intelligence to transform disease management into a continuous, data driven, and patient specific approach for people with Parkinson’s
  • Thymia – leverages speech, video, and behavioral analytics gathered via specially designed video games to diagnose conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD, alongside critical symptoms like fatigue, mood fluctuations, and memory issues, creating novel mental health biomarkers
The partnership between the U.K. and TMC began in 2018 as a biobridge between the two entities. TMC has expanded into new biobridges with other countries — most recently with The Netherlands — and also has a Danish accelerator that's also running its second cohort this summer.
Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

Houston startup secures $10M to expand into rural communities

ready to grow

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs.

The company has pioneered a proprietary “small footprint primary care delivery model,” which is considered suitable for rural markets, employer worksites, office buildings, schools, and university campuses. The cost-effective microclinics are “prefabricated facilities” that are designed for primary care services, and employ a hybrid in-person and telemedicine care approach.

Hamilton began his career as a physician before founding Emerus Holdings, which is a micro-hospital system in the Houston area that later moved to private equity.

The recently acquired funding will help expedite the high-touch care model to 98 million Americans in HPSAs, which was a goal for when the company was established during the Covid-19 pandemic. HHB has made partnerships with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to provide primary care services both at existing FQHC centers and through new sites in rural areas.

"Hamilton Health Box that was designed to deliver the lowest possible price of primary and preventative care," Hamilton said in a previous interview with Innovation Map. "We built that to be able to take that care to the jobsite and meet the customer where they are at."
Houston — home to the Texas Medical Center — has made the cut for top life science metros. Photo via Getty Images

Houston recognized for its workforce among top life science cities

we're no. 13

Of the top 25 United States metros ranked as the best for life science, Houston came in at lucky No. 13.

CommercialCafe issued a report this month ranking the top 25 U.S. cities for life science, factoring in volume of life science patents, number of life science establishments, size of workforce, educational institutions, office market, and more.

Houston stood out on the report for a few metrics. It might not be surprising, as Houston is home to the world's largest medical center, but the city boasts the 10th largest workforce with 5,100 workers employed in industry related occupations, the report found. Additionally, the city ranked:

  • No. 8 for life science education — more than 860,000 area residents aged 25 years or older hold a bachelor’s degree in an industry related field.
  • No. 9 for life science establishments — which has increased 23 percent since 2018 to a total of nearly 3,300.
  • No. 9 for life science square footage added — with roughly 840,000 square feet of new life sciences projects currently in development

As positive as the report finds Houston's life science market, the ranking represents a decrease in ranking compared to 2022 where Houston scored a spot in the top 10. In fact, Houston can't even claim the top spot in the Lone Star State. No Texas cities made the top 10, but the Dallas area secured the No. 11 ranking. Dallas was also ranked highly for its talent pool.

Meanwhile in central Texas, Austin claimed the No. 22 spot. The full ranking is below.

www.commercialcafe.com

Conveniently, CBRE, which also ranks the top life science markets every year, agrees with CommercialCafe's ranking of Houston. The 2023 report placed Houston at No. 13, which is exactly where the Bayou City ranked in 2022. However, according to CBRE, Houston ranks ahead of Dallas and Austin, which both still claimed rankings in the top 25.

For the second year, the Texas Medical Center Innovation and BioInnovation Institute have teamed up to accelerate a handful of Danish companies. Photo courtesy of TMC

TMC Innovation announces second cohort of promising Danish health tech companies

welcome to houston

A new cohort of scientists from the Texas-Denmark BioBridge has been selected to join a Texas Medical Center Accelerator, joining forces with some of Houston’s best advisers and mentors.

This is the second year that four Danish companies have been chosen to join a special TMC Innovation Accelerator program with plans to bring their technologies to the American market. In a joint press release, the Texas Medical Center (TMC) and the BioInnovation Institute (BII), announced that the participants are scheduled to arrive in Houston on May 13 for their first session, in which they’ll work on US customer validation. After that, they’ll take part in the full program, which will allow the founders to make their plans for strategic development over the course of six months.

Just as the TMC Innovation Factory offers help for founders who have set their sights on success in the US market, the Danish BioInnovation Institute provides life science startups with the connections, infrastructure and financial support necessary to bring their ideas to the public.

The companies selected include:

  • Alba Health is pioneering a gut microbiome test for young children that’s informed by AI.
  • AMPA Medical has created InterPoc, a more discrete alternative to types of stoma bags currently available for ileostomy patients.
  • Droplet IV is a medical device that automatically flushes IV lines, reducing waste and making nurses’ jobs easier.
  • Metsystem is a cancer metastasis platform aimed at predicting what the most effective cancer drug is for each patient.

“We are excited to welcome these startups to TMC as Danish companies are making significant strides in drug discovery and health tech developments” says Devin Dunn, head of the accelerator for Health Tech, in the release. “As they look to expand into the US market, the collaborative environment fostered by our dedicated team, programs, and clinical community will help them advance their innovations, foster research collaborations, and further develop their technologies here in Houston.”

The program for the accelerator is based on the successes of the TMC Innovation (TMCi) Health Tech Accelerator program. The TMC Denmark BioBridge was established in 2019 as a collaboration between TMC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

What can hospital systems do to combat climate change? A lot, according to a new report from the Center for Houston's Future. Photo via Getty Images

New report calls for Houston health care community to take action amid climate change

time for action

A new report underscores an “urgent need” for health care systems in the Houston area to combat climate change and avoid an environmental “code blue.”

“By adopting collaborative strategies and leveraging technological innovations, health care providers can play a pivotal role in safeguarding the health of Houston’s residents against the backdrop of an evolving climate landscape,” says the report, published by the Center for Houston’s Future.

Among the report’s recommendations are:

  • Advocate for policies that promote decarbonization.
  • Create eco-friendly spaces at hospitals and in low-income communities, among other places.
  • Recruit “champions” among health leaders and physicians to help battle climate change.
  • Establish academic programs to educate health care professionals and students about climate health and decarbonization.
  • Bolster research surrounding climate change.
  • Benchmark, track, and publish statistics about greenhouse gas emissions “to foster accountability and reduce environmental impacts of the health care sector.” The report notes that the U.S. health care sector emits 8.5 percent of the country’s greenhouse gases.

“By embracing collaborative strategies, acting with urgency and implementing sustainable practices, our region’s health care providers can play a pivotal role in creating a healthier, more resilient Houston,” says Brett Perlman, outgoing president and CEO of the Center for Houston’s Future. “If we work together, given all the collective wisdom, resources and innovation concentrated in our medical community, we can tackle the challenges that are confronting us.”

The report highlights the threat of climate-driven disasters in the Houston area, such as extreme heat, floods, and hurricanes. These events are likely to aggravate health issues like heatstroke, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and insect-borne diseases, says the report.

St. Luke’s Health, a nonprofit health care system with 16 hospitals in the Houston area and East Texas, provided funding for the report.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

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Houston-based sustainable chemical manufacturing secures $213.6M to support new facility

scaling up

Houston-based Solugen has secured financing from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office to support its mission of producing clean chemicals.

The LPO's $213.6 million loan guarantee will go toward the construction of the company's 500,000-square-foot Bioforge Marshall facility in Southwest Minnesota, which broke ground in April and will produce bio-based chemical products to be used in wastewater treatment, construction, agriculture, and the energy sector. According to Solugen, the facility is expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by up to 18 million kilograms.

"American manufacturing is at a turning point, and we are proud to have the opportunity to work with the DOE in bringing critical chemical production capabilities onshore to communities like Marshall," Gaurab Chakrabarti, CEO of Solugen, says in a news release. "By scaling cutting-edge technologies, we are meeting domestic demand for innovative solutions and setting global standards for sustainable biomanufacturing."

The new facility, originally announced last year, is expected to go online in the fall of 2025 and will create up to 100 temporary construction jobs as well as 56 full-time manufacturing jobs once the facility is up and running.

"Today’s announcement reflects President Biden’s commitment to building a thriving bioeconomy that benefits all Americans and ensures the United States leads the world in emerging biomass industries," the DOE writes in its announcement.

Bioforge Marshall is a scaled-up version of the company's first project, Bioforge Houston, which has been operating since 2021 and will continue to act as Solugen's research and development and innovation center.

"Scaling our Bioforge platform is not only a technological advancement, but a strategic move to fortify the domestic supply chain for critical chemicals," adds Sean Hunt, CTO of Solugen. "This project will serve as a model for how innovative technologies can revive American industries and maintain our competitive edge on a global scale."

Solugen will be required to meet certain DOE standards to move forward with the financing. Additionally, the company has created partnerships with regional educational and workforce development organizations for training and recruiting.

Founded in 2016, the Houston company has raised over $600 million, per Crunchbase, and clinched unicorn status with a $1 billion valuation in 2021. Last month, Solugen ranked at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, and in 2023, Chakrabarti and Hunt were named winners at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

Houston university awards grant to Texas accelerator to support sports tech

game on

Rice University awarded DivInc. an $800,000 grant this month to support its work in sports technology.

The Texas-based company, which operates numerous accelerators, focuses on BIPOC and female founders working toward social and economic equity through entrepreneurship. The grant from Rice is part of "several financial commitments" the university is making to support inclusivity at the Ion District.

DivInc runs its Sports Tech Accelerator out of The Ion, which recently named its latest cohort for the 2024 Sports Tech Accelerator.

“We’ve been in Houston since 2021, so we’re extremely honored and grateful to partner with Rice University,” Preston James, CEO and founder of DivInc, said in a statement. “Leveraging the top university sports management program in the U.S., Rice’s highly ranked sports medicine and sport analytics programs, we’re providing exceptional value to our portfolio of companies ... Sports tech is a vast and rapidly growing industry that represents a tremendous opportunity for diverse founders.”

Among the 10 companies selected for DivInc's current 12-week sports accelerator are a cash-back powered marketplace designed for the golf industry, a scouting automation software, an artificial intelligence company that collects real-time biometrics on athletes, and others.

Selected founders can receive up to $100,000 and access to curriculum, as well as mentorship from executives from the Houston Rockets, Houston Astros, San Antonio Spurs, Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Mercury Fund, The Collectiv, HTX Sports Tech and more.

“We have strategically created one of the nation’s premier accelerator programs in Houston, Texas, dedicated to supporting BIPOC and women founders driving innovation in the sports industry by leveraging best practices and insights from stakeholders within the sports tech ecosystem,” Ashley DeWalt, DivInc’s managing director of startups and programs, said in a statement.

DivInc also launched its first DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator from the Ion last fall. The 12-week intensive hybrid program sponsored by Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, supported nine companies, all of whom integrate Web3 technologies into their impact entrepreneurship, and each of the companies selected were awarded a non-dilutive $10,000 grant to use during the course of the program.