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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

LIDROTEC winning big at this year's Rice Business Plan Competition was among the top stories on InnovationMap this week. Photo courtesy Slyworks/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, results from the Rice Business Plan Competition, an energy company raising $50 million, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Ody De La Paz of Sensytec, Sassie Duggleby of Venus Aerospace, and David Eagleman. Courtesy photos

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

Rice University competition doles out nearly $2M in cash prizes to student startups

The 22nd annual Rice Business Plan Competition named its winners across life science, clean energy, software, and more. Photo via Rice University/Twitter

Rice University brought back its international student startup competition to its in-person format in a big way, giving out nearly $2 million in investment plus thousands more in-kind prizes to over a dozen winning teams.

The 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition took place April 7-9 on campus, ending in a banquet and awards presentation at the Marriott Marquis on Saturday. Earlier this year, Rice announced the 42 student teams competing for the awards. The student competitors represent 31 universities — including three from European universities. The 42 teams were narrowed down from over 400 applicants and divided into five categories: energy, cleantech and sustainability; life sciences and health care solutions; consumer products and services; hard tech; and digital enterprise.

Over 250 judges, mentors, and investors were involved in the competition, naming seven finalists — each receiving thousands of dollars in investment funding. Click here to continue reading.

Synthetic biology unicorn announces new Houston HQ

Solugen is moving its HQ into Phoenix Tower. Photo courtesy of Parkway

Houston-based Solugen has announced an HQ move. But don't worry. This unicorn chemicals company is just moving down the street.

Parkway Property Investments LLC announced today that Solugen is relocating its Houston corporate headquarters to Greenway Plaza. The biotech company, recently ranked as one of the most innovative businesses in the world, signed a multi-year lease in Phoenix Tower. The building is one of 11 Class A buildings on the 52-acre mixed-use campus.

The space's buildout is expected to be completed in the second quarter, according to a news release, with Solugen moving in after that. Click here to continue reading.

Fast-growing energy fintech startup raises $50M series B

The series B capital will allow the company to enhance its core product, while also adding on other workflows that focus on emissions and renewable energy. Image via combocurve.com

Houston-based ComboCurve announced today that it has raised $50 million through a series B funding round led by Dragoneer Investment Group and Bessemer Venture Partners.

Founded in 2017, the company is a cloud-based energy analytics and operating platform that uses sophisticated software to forecast and report on a company's energy assets, including renewables.

The series B capital will allow the company to enhance its core product, while also adding on other workflows that focus on emissions and renewable energy. Click here to continue reading.

New startup deemed the ‘Airbnb of vehicle storage’ steers into Houston

Houstonians are getting a new way to make a passive income and/or store their vehicles. Image via Stow It/Facebook

A startup that bills itself as the "Airbnb of vehicle storage" is driving into Houston.

Fort Collins, Colorado-based Stow It connects people with extra space to those who need to store cars, boats, RVs, and other vehicles. It also offers long-term parking near airports. The company initially launched in the Denver area and announced last month that it’s expanding into the Lone Star State.

Stow It works with businesses and individuals to take advantage of unused or underused space at places like storage facilities, parking garages, parking lots, barns, home garages, driveways, and unoccupied land. In February, the company said more than 400 properties in the Denver area were earning more than $1,000 a year by renting out space through its program.

“Any individual or business that is looking to make passive income off their open space through vehicle storage can become a Stow It host,” the company says in a news release. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

Cemvita reported a successful pilot program on its gold hydrogen project in the Permian Basin. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based cleantech startup Cemvita Factory is kicking things into high gear with its Gold Hydrogen product.

After successfully completing a pilot test of Gold Hydrogen in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Cemvita has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through its new Gold H2 LLC spin-out. The lead investors are Georgia-based equipment manufacturer Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, an investment consortium with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Gold Hydrogen provides carbon-neutral hydrogen obtained from depleted oil and gas wells. This is achieved through bioengineering subsurface microbes in the wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen.

Cemvita says it set up Gold H2 to commercialize the business via licensing, joint ventures, and outright ownership of hydrogen assets.

“We have incredible conviction in next-generation clean hydrogen production methods that leverage the vast and sprawling existing infrastructure and know-how of the oil and gas industry,” Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner of 8090 Industries, says in a news release.

Traditional methods of producing hydrogen without greenhouse gas emissions include electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, solar or water, according to Cemvita. However, production of green hydrogen through normal avenues eats up a lot of energy and money, the startup says.

By contrast, Cemvita relies on depleted oil and gas wells to cheaply produce carbon-free hydrogen.

“The commercialization and economics of the hydrogen economy will require technologies that produce the hydrogen molecule at a meaningful scale with no carbon emissions. Gold H2 is leading the charge … ,” says Jill Evanko, president and CEO of Chart Industries.

Investors in Cemvita include Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, as well as BHP Group, Mitsubishi, and United Airlines Ventures.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and United Airlines Ventures are financing Cemvita’s work on sustainable jet fuel. United Airlines operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston.

Founded by brother-and-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi in 2017, Cemvita uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels.

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