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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

Rice University naming the finalists of its on-campus student startup competion . Photo courtesy of Rice University

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, startups and VC firms announcing new hires, Rice University naming the finalists of its student startup competition, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Allie Danziger of Ampersand, Wesley Okeke of CUBIO, and Libby Covington of The Craig Group. Courtesy photos

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from health tech to future of work — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

Rice University startup pitch competition names 6 finalists

These six finalists of The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Championship will pitch on April 20. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Six student-founded startups are headed to the finals of a Rice University pitch competition — and this round is where the money is on the line.

The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, open to undergraduate or graduate students in the spring as well as alumni in the summer, started in 2017 with 15 student-run companies vying for a win. The 2022 edition saw participation from almost 200 students and a record 84 teams. The Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship whittled those entries down and, after the first round of judging on March 24, six teams are headed the the finals.

The startups will make their pitches in-person at Rice University on Wednesday, April 20, starting at 5:30 pm and compete for over $75,000 in equity free funding. Click here to continue reading.

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for April

Check out these conferences, pitch events, networking, and more happening in Houston in the month of April. Photo via Getty Images

After a very busy March, Houston innovators might need to prepare for another month of networking opportunities. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for April. Click here to continue reading.

Houston oil and gas company reveals details on $1B carbon capture facility

Oxy is working on a direct air carbon capture facility in the Permian Basin — and is committing to up to a $1 billion price tag for the project. Rendering via 1pointfive.com

Ramping up its investment in clean energy, Houston-based Occidental Petroleum plans to spend up to $1 billion on a facility in the Permian Basin that will pull carbon dioxide from the air.

During a March 23 investor update, executives at Occidental laid out their strategy for developing direct air carbon capture plants and carbon sequestration hubs.

Executives said Occidental’s first direct air capture facility is set to be built in the Permian Basin, a massive oil-producing region in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The industrial-scale facility, with an estimated price tag of $800 million to $1 billion, is on track to open in late 2024. Construction is supposed to start later this year.

Occidental expects as many as 135 of its direct air carbon capture plants to be operating by 2035. Click here to continue reading.

3 Houston organizations announce strategic appointments across biotech and VC

Here are three of the latest updates on new execs and advisory appointments from two Houston startups and a local venture group. Photo via Getty Images

Five Houston innovators have new roles they're excited about this spring. From new advisory board members to c-level execs, here's who's moving and shaking in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

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With this new grant, UH has a new center for researching bioactive materials crystallization. Photo via UH.edu

A new hub at the University of Houston is being established with a crystal-clear mission — and fresh funding.

Thanks to funding from Houston-based organization The Welch Foundation, the University of Houston will be home to the Welch Center for Advanced Bioactive Materials Crystallization. The nonprofit doled out its inaugural $5 million Catalyst for Discovery Program Grant to the new initiative led by Jeffrey Rimer, Abraham E. Dukler Professor of Chemical Engineering, who is known internationally for his work with crystals that help treat malaria and kidney stones.

“Knowledge gaps in the nascent and rapidly developing field of nonclassical crystallization present a wide range of obstacles to design crystalline materials for applications that benefit humankind, spanning from medicine to energy and the environment,” says Rimer in a news release. “Success calls for a paradigm shift in the understanding of crystal nucleation mechanisms and structure selection that will be addressed in this center.”

The Welch Foundation, which was founded in 1954, has granted over $1.1 billion to scientists in Texas. This new grant program targets researchers focused on fundamental chemical solutions. Earlier this year, the organization announced nearly $28 million in grants to Texas institutions.

"Support from the Welch Foundation has led to important advances in the field of chemistry, not only within Texas, but also throughout the United States and the world as a whole,” says Randall Lee, Cullen Distinguished University Chair and professor of chemistry, in the release. “These advances extend beyond scientific discoveries and into the realm of education, where support from the Welch Foundation has played a significant role in building the technological workforce needed to solve ongoing and emerging problems in energy and health care.”

Rimer and Lee are joined by the following researchers on the newly announced center's team:

  • Peter Vekilov, Moores Professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Alamgir Karim, Dow Chair and Welch Foundation Professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering;
  • Jeremy Palmer, Ernest J. and Barbara M. Henley Associate Professor, chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Gül Zerze, chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Francisco Robles Hernandez, professor of engineering technology.

The University of Houston also received another grant from the Welch Foundation. Megan Robertson, UH professor of chemical engineering, received $4 million$4 million for her work with developing chemical processes to transform plastic waste into useful materials.

“For the University of Houston to be recognized with two highly-competitive Welch Foundation Catalyst Grants underscores the exceptional talent and dedication of our researchers and their commitment to making meaningful contributions to society through discovery,” Diane Chase, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, says in the release.

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