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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

A Houston startup rebrands and relaunches its app — and other trending news from the week. Photo via the ema

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included innovators to know, big moves for Houston startups, and more.

Exclusive: Houston startup rebrands to provide AI chat tool focused on women’s health

A Houston founder is introducing you to ema — a GPT-based chat platform and your new best friend in women's health. Photo via Canva

Amanda Ducach set out to create a platform where mothers could connect with each other socially, but when she launched SocialMama just ahead of a global pandemic, she soon learned there was a bigger market need for access to information surrounding women's health — from fertility to menopause.

After pivoting her femtech platform to include women's health experts, she realized her technology wasn't able to completely support growing user base. The platform, which was called SocialMama, saw users engaging with experts in similar ways — and as Ducach looked into growing the platforms users, she realized that 24/7 access to experts was going to be hard to scale.

"We noticed that most of these conversations were repetitive," Ducach tells InnovationMap. "You had women asking an expert about tracking ovulation a hundred times a day. Having an OBGYN answer that question a hundred times a day was crazy and just not scalable." Read more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Mark Walker of Direct Digital Holdings, Will Womble of Umbrage, and Steve Altemus of Intuitive Machines. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from adtech to aerospace — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Read more.

Rice University kicks off new program for student startup founders

Applications are now open for the Summer Venture Studio. Photo via rice.edu

Students at Rice University will have a new opportunity to have a taste of entrepreneurship this summer.

The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, or Lilie, has established a new startup accelerator program called the Summer Venture Studio. The program, which will run May 15 through August 7, is open to students of any major or year, including recent graduates.

“The Summer Venture Studio will empower student teams to accelerate their ventures and hit escape velocity,” says Kyle Judah, executive director of Lilie, in a news release. “We believe that with the right personalized program and resources, and led by our team of experienced founders, we can unlock students’ limitless potential to create the next generation of pillar companies for Houston, Texas and the world.” Read more.

Report: Texas is the best place to lead hydrogen economy

According to a new report, the existing energy infrastructure of Texas makes it a great spot to lead the development of the hydrogen economy. Photo via Getty Images

All signs point to Texas leading the development of a hydrogen market, says one new report out of Rice University.

The Baker Institute for Public Policy released a new report this week about the hydrogen economy and the role Texas will play in it. According to the experts, Texas’ legacy energy industry — as well as its geology — makes it an ideal hub for hydrogen as an energy source. Ken Medlock, senior director of the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies, and Shih Yu (Elsie) Hung, research manager at the center, wrote the report.

“Texas is in a very advantageous position to play a leading role in driving hydrogen market growth, but the evolution of policy and market structure will dictate whether or not this comes to pass,” write the co-authors. Read more.

Houston material science company strategically rolls out flagship product nationwide

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. Read more.

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Building Houston

 
 

The University of Houston's nursing program has received a significant gift to address the nursing industry's workforce shortage. Photo via UH.edu

A University of Houston alumnus and his wife have donated a historic gift to strengthen nursing education and research at his alma mater.

Andy and Barbara Gessner's $20 million gift to the UH College of Nursing was announced this week during National Nurses Week. The contribution will go toward scholarships and fellowships for students, as well as support programming and research to address the shortage of nurses in the workforce. The college has been renamed in honor of the gift to the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing.

The Gessners’ support of the College of Nursing is inspired by the many caring and giving nurses they know, including their late mothers, who were both nurses. Gertrude Smith Gessner and Mildred Roberson Pottenger dedicated their lives to delivering compassionate health care to their patients and serving their communities with distinction.

“We believe in nurses and we need more of them right now,” Andy Gessner, whose mother and mother-in-law were both nurses, says in a news release. “We’re all going to need a nurse at some time in our lives, and there's just not enough in the workforce or being educated for the future. The primary intent of our gift is to make more nurses available when we need them, now and in the future.”

By 2025, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a shortage of almost 200,000 registered nurses and a rise in demand of 12 percent between now and 2029.

“The silver tsunami is coming,” says Barbara Gessner in the release. “We are certainly going to need more nurses as the population gets older, so the medical profession will be put to the test. It's always been an honorable profession, and we believe in that tender, compassionate care that nurses provide.”

The donation will create three endowed professorships, two of the which will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s “$100 Million Challenge” for chairs and professorships. Additional endowments funded by the gift, according to UH, will go toward research, nursing education, clinical learning, scholarships, graduate student fellowships, adjunct faculty support and and more.

“Our college of Nursing has been a leader in preparing highly skilled nurses for the workforce, and this comprehensive gift from Andy and Barbara Gessner will take it to the next level,” says UH President Renu Khator. “We are forever grateful to the Gessners for their vision, commitment and passion for nursing education so that we can educate more nurses who will make a positive impact on the lives of patients and in the health care industry.”

Kathryn Tart is the founding dean of the Gessner College of Nursing, and she believes the gift will have a significant impact on the university as well as the industry as a whole.

“This gift will have a lasting impact on the nursing profession and our great city, state and beyond for many years to come,” she says. “We will be able to attract more top faculty and students and increase our research endeavors to further the University’s mission of becoming a top 50 public university. We are so grateful to the Gessners for their support and vision to address the severe nursing shortage.”

In 2019, the Gessner Family Nursing Scholarship was established. To date, the scholarship has provided full tuition to 19 students in the Traditional BSN program.

“Our legacy will not be about what we did, it's what this gift will do,” says Andy Gessner. “We hope that in the coming years, the Gessner College of Nursing will be recognized for excellence and for creating more nurses.”

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