HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 85

Houston innovation leader assumes permanent role at the helm of The Ion ahead of opening

Jan E. Odegard joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the latest at The Ion. Photo courtesy of The Ion

For over a year now, Jan E. Odegard has been leading The Ion as interim executive director, but as of last month, he got to drop the "interim." But for Odegard, very little aside from an update to his LinkedIn profile has changed.

"To me, it wasn't about me or the position — it was about the team and the work we were doing," Odegard says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "I'm as passionate about it now as I was before."

The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot coworking and innovation hub owned and managed by Rice Management Co., is slated to open later this summer and be a convening building for startups, corporations, academic partners, investors, and more.

The project, which broke ground in July of 2019, took a bit of a winding path in one part because of COVID-19 but also because of the challenge of rehabilitating a former department store. The building originally premiered in 1939 as a Sears.

"The decision that we made to not tear it down — that to me speaks power," Odegard says. "It probably would have been cheaper and faster to tear it down and build new, but this actually meant something to Houstonians. I think that nod to history really does speak power."

Odegard says the building represented a feat when it opened — now Houstonians will experience something similar in The Ion as they walk through and witness the evolution of the building as well as the innovation activity the structure will be home to.

"We have been speaking for the last two years, 'let's build on Houston's DNA,'" he says, "well, we've built this building on the DNA. We are truly trying to amplify the connectivity to the history but serving it for the next 40 to 50 years."

Leasing is open for both the traditional office spaces and coworking space. Chevron and Microsoft have both announced their leased space last year. The Ion tapped Savills for leasing as well as Common Desk for coworking, and leasing information is available online.

As far as programing goes, in-person accelerators and events will start rolling out activity in a responsible way factoring in pandemic protocol. But for Odegard, who is already working out of the building with a small team, he says he can't wait for that activity and collisions to begin. It's really about the people for hi,.

"If you go back to our vision of accelerating innovation and connecting communities, that really speaks to me," Odegard says. "We are really about creating that next wave of tech and innovation in our backyard, and then connecting those communities — which I think is maybe the most overlooked DNA here in Houston. That's the people we have — an incredible diversity."

Odegard shares more about The Ion and his career focused on advancing technology on the episode. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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Building Houston

 
 

Business and government leaders in the Houston area hope the region can become a hub for CCS activity. Photo via Getty Images

Three big businesses — Air Liquide, BASF, and Shell — have added their firepower to the effort to promote large-scale carbon capture and storage for the Houston area’s industrial ecosystem.

These companies join 11 others that in 2021 threw their support behind the initiative. Participants are evaluating how to use safe carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at Houston-area facilities that provide energy, power generation, and advanced manufacturing for plastics, motor fuels, and packaging.

Other companies backing the CCS project are Calpine, Chevron, Dow, ExxonMobil, INEOS, Linde, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, NRG Energy, Phillips 66, and Valero.

Business and government leaders in the Houston area hope the region can become a hub for CCS activity.

“Large-scale carbon capture and storage in the Houston region will be a cornerstone for the world’s energy transition, and these companies’ efforts are crucial toward advancing CCS development to achieve broad scale commercial impact,” Charles McConnell, director of University of Houston’s Center for Carbon Management in Energy, says in a news release.

McConnell and others say CCS could help Houston and the rest of the U.S. net-zero goals while generating new jobs and protecting current jobs.

CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide from industrial activities that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and then injecting it into deep underground geologic formations for secure and permanent storage. Carbon dioxide from industrial users in the Houston area could be stored in nearby onshore and offshore storage sites.

An analysis of U.S Department of Energy estimates shows the storage capacity along the Gulf Coast is large enough to store about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to more than 130 years’ worth of industrial and power generation emissions in the United States, based on 2018 data.

“Carbon capture and storage is not a single technology, but rather a series of technologies and scientific breakthroughs that work in concert to achieve a profound outcome, one that will play a significant role in the future of energy and our planet,” says Gretchen Watkins, U.S. president of Shell. “In that spirit, it’s fitting this consortium combines CCS blueprints and ambitions to crystalize Houston’s reputation as the energy capital of the world while contributing to local and U.S. plans to help achieve net-zero emissions.”

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