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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

 
 

Houston innovators podcast episode 140

What Houston can expect from its rising innovation district

Sam Dike of Rice Management Company joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the past, present, and future of Houston's rising Ion Innovation District. Photo via rice.edu

Last month, the Ion Houston welcomed in the greater Houston community to showcase the programs and companies operating within the Ion Innovation District — and the week-long Ion Activation Festival spotlighted just the beginning.

The rising district — anchored by the Ion — is a 16-acre project in Midtown Houston owned and operated by Rice Management Company, an organization focused on managing Rice University's $8.1 billion endowment.

"We're chiefly responsible for stewarding the university's endowment and generating returns to support the academic mission of the university," says Samuel Dike, manager of strategic initiatives at RMC, on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Part of those returns go to support student scholarships and student success — as well as many of the other academic programs."

"The university sees a dual purpose behind the investing," Dike continues, in addition to focusing on generating returns, RMC's mission is "also to be a valuable partner in Houston's ecosystem and pushing Houston as a global 21st century city."

RMC saw an opportunity a few years back to make an investment in Houston's nascent innovation and tech ecosystem, and announced the plans for the Ion, a 266,000-square-foot innovation hub in an renovated and rehabilitated Sears.

"In some ways innovation is not necessarily about creating something completely new — it's oftentimes building upon something that exists and making it better," Dike says. "I think that's what we've done with the building itself.

"We took something that had really strong bones and a strong identity here in Houston," he continues, "and we did something that's often atypical in Houston and preserved and repurposed it — not an easy logistical or financial decision to make, but we believed it was the best for Houston and for the project."

Now, the Ion District includes the Ion as the anchor, as well as Greentown Houston, which moved into a 40,000-square-foot space in the former Fiesta Mart building, just down the street. While RMC has announced a few other initiatives, the next construction project to be delivered is a 1,500-space parking garage that will serve the district.

"It is not your typical parking garage," Dike says. "The garage will feature a vegetated facade with ground-floor retail and gallery space, as well as EV charging spaces and spaces to feature display spaces for future tech. It's going to be a nice addition to the district."

The new garage will free up surface parking lots that then will be freed up for future construction projects, Dike explains.

He shares more about the past, present, and future of the Ion and the district as a whole on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.



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