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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Where to be at SXSW this year was among this week's top stories on InnovationMap. Photo via SXSW.com

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, events not to miss at SXSW, an industrial robotics company raising funding, and more.


3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Sujatha Kumar of Dsider, Andrew Bruce of Data Gumbo, and Payal Patel of Softeq. Courtesy photos

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from software to blockchain — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

Houston innovators: Here's what not to miss at SXSW

Here's everything you should attend at SXSW this year. Photo courtesy of SXSW

Headed to SXSW this year and hoping to make meaningful Houston tech and innovation connections and hear from thought leaders? Look no further than these key events and panels.

From meetups to fireside chats, here's everything you need to know about tapping into the Houston innovation ecosystem by way of the Austin festival. Click here to continue reading.

Industrial robotics company raises $73M series C, prepares to grow Houston office

Gecko Robotics has over 50 Houston area employees working on robotics and software solutions for infrastructure. Photo via GeckoRobotics.com

A Pittsburgh-based tech company that has created a hardware and software solution for industrial asset management has closed its latest round of funding.

Gecko Robotics, which has a growing Houston office, has closed its series C funding round at $73 million. The round was led by XN with participation from Founders Fund, XYZ, Drive Capital, Snowpoint Ventures, Joe Lonsdale, Mark Cuban, Gokul Rajaram, and others.

Gecko's Houston office was stood up in 2019 as a way to further grow oil and gas industry customers. Gecko has over 100 customers within infrastructure, power, energy, and more, Troy Demmer, chief product officer and co-founder, tells InnovationMap. Gecko's customers include Dow Chemical, Marathon, Shell, and Chevron, to name a few. Click here to continue reading.

Overheard: Houston experts discuss women in med tech, insight from investors, and more

Health care innovators joined Houston Methodist and Texas A&M University's ENMED program to discuss women in health care innovation and venture capital investment. Photo courtesy of Houston Methodist

Houston's health innovation community is making strides every day toward greater quality of care and technology adoption — but what challenges is the industry facing these days?

Through a partnership between Houston Methodist and Texas A&M University's ENMED program at Houston Tech Rodeo, health innovators weighed in on topics surrounding the industry, including biases and investment opportunities. Click here to continue reading.

Electric buses are on track to roll into Houston

METRO is moving toward the purchase of only zero-emission buses by 2030. Image courtesy of NovaBus

Within the next year or so, you’ll see electric-powered buses buzzing around Bayou City.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) recently awarded a $22 million contract to Saint-Eustache, Canada-based Nova Bus for the production of 20 battery-powered electric buses. The contract includes an option for another 20 buses.

The first 20 buses, to be manufactured at the Nova Bus factory in Plattsburgh, New York, are expected to be on local roads sometime in in late 2022 or early 2023. They’ll run on the 402 Bellaire Express (Quickline) and 28 OST-Wayside routes.

METRO also plans to test three to five electric buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Furthermore, METRO is a member of the Automated Bus Consortium, a national organization of transportation agencies working toward development of a full-size, electric-powered automated bus. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

Electric vans will now be delivering to Houston. Photo courtesy of Amazon

Amazon CEO/occasional space traveler Jeff Bezos is doing his best to supplant a certain jolly fellow from the North Pole as tops for holiday gift delivery.

His latest move: Amazon is rolling out more than 1,000 electric delivery vehicles, designed by electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, ready to make deliveries in more than 100 cities across the U.S. On the Texas good list: Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Bezos' juggernaut began deliveries in Dallas in July, along with Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis.

These zero-emissions vans have delivered more than 5 million packages to customers in the U.S., according to Amazon. The latest boost in vehicles now includes Houston and Austin; Boston; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Madison, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; New York, Oakland, California; Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; and Salt Lake City.

Plans for the Amazon and Rivian partnership call for thousands of vehicles on the road by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030.

“We’re always excited for the holiday season, but making deliveries to customers across the country with our new zero-emission vehicles for the first time makes this year unique,” said Udit Madan, vice president of Amazon Transportation, in a statement. “We’ve already delivered over 5 million packages with our vehicles produced by Rivian, and this is still just the beginning—that figure will grow exponentially as we continue to make progress toward our 100,000-vehicle goal.”

This all comes as part of Amazon's commitment to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, as a part of its The Climate Pledge; Amazon promises to eliminate millions of metric tons of carbon per year with it s commitment to 100,000 electric delivery vehicles by 2030, press materials note.

Additionally, Amazon announced plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next five years to further electrify and decarbonize its transportation network across Europe. This investment is meant to spark innovation and encourage more public charging infrastructure across the continent.

“Fleet electrification is essential to reaching the world’s zero-emissions goal,” said Jiten Behl, chief growth officer at Rivian, in a statement. “So, to see our ramp up in production supporting Amazon’s rollout in cities across the country is amazing. Not just for the environment, but also for our teams working hard to get tens of thousands of electric delivery vehicles on the road. They continue to be motivated by our combined mission and the great feedback about the vehicle’s performance and quality.”

A little about the vans: Drivers’ favorite features include a spacious cabin and cargo area, superior visibility with a large windshield and 360-degree cameras, and ventilated seats for fast heating and cooling — a must for Bayou City summers ... or winters, for that matter.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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