FluxWorks, based down the road in College Station, has received the opportunity to test its tech in collaboration with the ISS. Photo via fluxworks.co

A Houston-area startup and Greentown Houston member has secured a prestigious space prize.

College Station’s FluxWorks, which develops and commercializes non-contact magnetic gearboxes for use in extreme environments, was one of two startups to receive the Technology in Space Prize, which is funded by Boeing and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, manager of the International Space Station National Laboratory. Los Angeles-based Symphony Bio also received the honor.

Through the MassChallenge startup accelerator program, the two companies now get to utilize the research environment available through the ISS National Lab. CASIS and Boeing awarded Symphony Bio and FluxWorks more than $630,000 in total through the contest. Approximately $20 million has been awarded for more than 30 projects, which have already launched to the space station, since the event’s beginning.

"Boeing is excited to partner with CASIS to support the advancement of cutting-edge research using the unique environment of the orbiting laboratory,” says Scott Copeland, director for ISS research integration at Boeing, in a news release. “Enabling research that can help millions diagnosed with cancer and advancing mechanical innovations of non-contact magnetic gear technology will benefit human life in both the harsh environment of space and terrestrial environments.

"There are many smart people out there with great ideas who can leverage the space station to advance innovation, and these two companies serve as an inspiration to them all,” he continues.

FluxWorks, which won the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition, will use the space station to test performance of a new gear. The magnetic gear will be tested to assess its startup behavior, dynamic operation, vibrational characteristics, and seal and bearing behavior in microgravity. Gearbox's goal is to reduce the mass of motors required in a variety of applications, but the lubricant needed to make them work is not designed for use in extreme environments, like space. Magnetic gears do not require lubricant, which makes them an alternative.

Symphony Bio will use the orbiting laboratory to develop a new cancer treatment that hopes to harness the immune system to fight tumors.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

At last year's awards program, Cemvita Factory's co-founders, Tara and Moji Karimi, accepted the award for the Green Impact Business category. This year, Moji Karimi served as a judge

18 Houston energy startups named finalists for innovation awards program

companies to watch

The 2023 Houston Innovation Awards announced its 52 finalists — a large portion of which are promising energy transition startups.

The awards program — hosted by EnergyCapital's sister site, InnovationMap, and Houston Exponential — will name its winners on November 8 at the Houston Innovation Awards. The program was established to honor the best and brightest companies and individuals from the city's innovation community.

The following startups, which all have an energy transition element to their business, received a finalist position in one or two categories.

Click here to secure your tickets to see who wins.

  • ALLY Energy, helping energy companies and climate startups find, develop, and retain great talent, scored two finalist positions — one in the Female-Owned Business category and the other in the Social Impact Business category.
  • Eden Grow Systems, next generation farming technologies, is a finalist in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
  • Feelit Technologies, nanotechnology for preventive maintenance to eliminate leaks, fires and explosions, increase safety and reduce downtime, is a finalist in the Female-Owned Business category and the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
  • Fervo Energy, leveraging proven oil and gas drilling technology to deliver 24/7 carbon-free geothermal energy, scored two finalist positions — one in the Sustainability Business category and the other in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
  • FluxWorks, making frictionless gearboxes for missions in any environment, is a finalist in the Hardtech Business category.
  • Helix Earth Technologies, decarbonizing the built environment and heavy industry, is a finalist in the Hardtech Business category.
  • INOVUES, re-energizing building facades through its non-invasive window retrofit innovations, making building smarter, greener, and healthier for a better and sustainable future, was named a finalist in the SustainabilityBusiness category.
  • Kanin Energy, helping heavy industry monetize their waste heat and decarbonize their operations, was named a finalist in the BIPOC-Owned Business and the SustainabilityBusiness categories.
  • Mars Materials, developing a carbon-negative pathway for carbon fiber and acrylamide production using CO2 and biomass as raw materials, is a finalist in the BIPOC-Owned Business category.
  • Molecule, an energy/commodity trading risk management software that provides users with an efficient, reliable, responsive platform for managing trade risk, is a finalist in the Digital Solutions Business category.
  • Rhythm Energy, 100 percent renewable electricity service for residential customers in Texas, is a finalist in the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category.
  • Sage Geosystems, a cost-effective geothermal baseload energy solution company, also innovating underground energy storage solutions, was named a finalist in the Sustainability Business category.
  • Solugen, decarbonizing the chemical industry, is a finalist in the Hardtech Business category.
  • Square Robot, applying robotic technology to eliminate the need to put people into dangerous enclosed spaces and eliminate taking tanks out of service, is a finalist in the HardtechBusiness category.
  • Syzygy Plasmonics, a deep decarbonization company that builds chemical reactors designed to use light instead of combustion to produce valuable chemicals like hydrogen and sustainable fuels, is a finalist in the HardtechBusiness category.
  • Tierra Climate, decarbonizing the power grid faster by helping grid-scale batteries monetize their environmental benefits and change their operational behavior to abate more carbon, was named a finalist in the SustainabilityBusiness category.
  • Utility Global, a technology company converting a range of waste gases into sustainable hydrogen and syngas, was named a finalist in the SustainabilityBusiness category.
  • Venus Aerospace, a hypersonics company on track to fly reusable hypersonic flight platforms by 2024, is a finalist in the HardtechBusiness category.

Additionally, two energy companies were named to the Corporate of the Year category, which honors corporations that supports startups and/or the Houston innovation community. Aramco Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures are two of the four finalists in this category.

Lastly, Jason Ethier, co-founder of Lambda Catalyzer and host of the Energy Tech Startups podcast, and Kendrick Alridge, senior manager of community at Greentown Labs, scored finalist positions in the Ecosystem Builder category, as individuals who have acted as leaders in developing Houston’s startup ecosystem.

Click here to see the full list of finalists.

Next month, 96 startups will pitch at an annual event focused on the future of energy. Here's who will be there. Photo via rice.edu

Exclusive: Rice Alliance announces participants ahead of 20th annual energy symposium

where to be

Dozens of companies will be a part of an upcoming energy-focused conference at Rice University — from climate tech startups to must-see keynote speakers.

The 20th Annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum will take place on September 21 at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Anyone who's interested in learning more about the major players in the low-carbon future in Houston and beyond should join the industry leaders, investors, and promising energy and cleantech startups in attendance.

This year's keynote speakers include Christina Karapataki, partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the venture capital fund backed by Bill Gates; Scott Nyquist, vice chairman at Houston Energy Transition Initiative, founded by the Greater Houston Partnership; and Jeff Tillery, COO at Veriten.

Nearly 100 startups will also be pitching throughout the day, and at the end of the program, the most-promising companies — according to investors — will be revealed. See below for the 2023 selection of companies.

Presenting companies:

  • Element Resources
  • Eugenie AI
  • Flash H2 Synthesis from Waste Plastic at Zero Net Cost
  • Fluid Efficiency
  • Galatea Technologies
  • Heimdal
  • Impact Technology SystemsAS
  • INGU
  • Lithos
  • Luminescent
  • Mantel
  • Mars Materials
  • Microgrid Labs
  • Mirico
  • Mobilus Labs
  • Muon Vision
  • Nano Nuclear
  • NobleAI
  • Numat
  • Ourobio
  • Planckton Data Technologies
  • Polystyvert
  • Princeton NuEnergy
  • Protein Evolution
  • Qult Technologies
  • Sage Geosystems
  • Salient Predictions
  • Sawback Technologies
  • SHORELINE AI
  • Solidec
  • Spectral Sensor Solutions
  • Teren
  • Terradote
  • TexPower
  • Thiozen
  • Technology from the Lab of Dr. James Tour
  • Volexion
  • Xecta

CEA Demo Day:

  • Ayrton Energy
  • Carbix
  • CryoDesalination
  • Digital Carbon Bank
  • EarthEn
  • H Quest Vanguard
  • Highwood Emissions Management
  • Icarus RT
  • Khepra
  • Natrion
  • Oceanways
  • Relyion Energy
  • Triton Anchor
  • TROES

Office hours only:

  • 1s1 Energy
  • AKOS Energy
  • Aperta Systems
  • Atargis Energy
  • Ayas
  • C-Power
  • C-Quester
  • Carbon Loop
  • Deep Anchor Solutions
  • DG Matrix
  • Drishya AI Labs
  • Earthbound.ai
  • EarthBridge Energy
  • Enoverra
  • equipcast
  • ezNG Solutions
  • Feelit Technologies
  • FluxWorks
  • Forge
  • Horne Technologies
  • Imperium Technologies
  • LiCAP Technologies
  • Make My Day
  • Moblyze
  • MyPass Global
  • NovaSpark Energy
  • Octet Scientific
  • Perceptive Sensor Technologies
  • PetroBricks
  • Piersica
  • Poseidon Minerals
  • Predyct
  • RIvotto
  • Roboze
  • Talisea
  • ThermoLift Solutions
  • Trout Software
  • Tuebor Energy
  • Undesert Corporation
  • Viridos
  • Vroom Solar
  • Well Information Technologies
  • WellWorth
  • Zsense Systems
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Houston company expands JV to build new power generation, storage assets

team work

Houston-based Conduit Power is broadening the scope of its joint venture with Oklahoma City-based Riley Exploration Permian.

Under this deal, the joint venture, RPC Power, will build power generation and storage assets for the sale of energy and related services to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the power grid for the bulk of Texas.

RPC Power, established in March 2023, owns and operates power generation assets that use Riley Permian’s natural gas to power its oilfield operations in Yoakum County, located in West Texas.

The expanded relationship will enable RPC Power to sell power and related services to ERCOT, with plans for 100 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation and battery energy storage systems across facilities in West Texas. The facilities are expected to start commercial operations in 2025.

In conjunction with the expanded scope, Riley Permian bumped up its stake in RPC Power from 35 percent to 50 percent. Furthermore, it plans to sell up to 10 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to RPC Power as feedstock supply for the new generation facilities.

"Our JV expansion at RPC Power represents a significant milestone for our company, and we are proud to build upon our successful partnership with Riley Permian,” Travis Windholz, managing director of Conduit, says in a news release.

Conduit, a portfolio company of private equity firm Grey Rock Investment Partners, designs, builds, and operates distributed power generation systems.

Riley Exploration Permian specializes in the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas reserves, primarily within the Permian Basin.

Elon Musk sees more resistance against his multibillion dollar pay package

just say no

A second shareholder advisory firm has come out against reinstating a pay package for Tesla CEO Elon Musk that was voided earlier this year by a Delaware judge.

ISS late Thursday joined Glass Lewis in recommending against the package, recently valued by the company at $44.9 billion but in January had a value of about $56 billion.

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting.

ISS said in its recommendations on Tesla's proxy voting items that Musk's stock-based package was outsized when it was approved by shareholders in 2018, and it failed to accomplish board objectives voiced at that time.

The firm said that Tesla met the pay package’s performance objectives, and it recognized the company's substantial growth in size and profitability. But concerns about Musk spending too much time on other ventures that were raised in 2018 and since then have not been sufficiently addressed, ISS said.

“The grant, in many ways, failed to achieve the board’s other original objectives of focusing CEO Musk on the interests of Tesla shareholders, as opposed to other business endeavors, and aligning his financial interests more closely with those of Tesla stockholders,” ISS wrote.

Also, future concerns remain unaddressed, including a lack of clarity on Musk's future compensation and the potential for his pay to significantly dilute shareholder value, ISS wrote.

Musk plays big roles in his other ventures including SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company. Last year he bought social media platform X and formed an artificial intelligence unit called xAI.

Last week the other prominent proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis, also recommended against reinstating Musk's 2018 compensation package. The firm said the package would dilute shareholders' value by about 8.7%. The rationale for the package “does not in our view adequately consider dilution and its long-lasting effects on disinterested shareholders,” Glass Lewis wrote.

But in a proxy filing, Tesla said that Glass Lewis failed to consider that the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

“Tesla is one of the most successful enterprises of our time,” the filing said. “We have revolutionized the automotive market and become the first vertically integrated sustainable energy company."

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled about 30% this year.

Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package after it was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s legal corporate home to Texas.

Glass Lewis recommended against moving the legal corporate home to Texas, but ISS said it favored the move.

California’s public employee retirement system, which holds a stake in Tesla, said it has not made a final decision on how it will vote on Musk’s pay. But CEO Marcie Frost told CNBC that as of Wednesday, the system would not vote in favor. CalPERS, which opposed the package in 2018, said it will discuss the matter with Tesla “in the coming days.”

In January, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that Musk is not entitled to the landmark stock compensation that was to be granted over 10 years.

Ruling on a lawsuit from a shareholder, she voided the pay package, saying that Musk essentially controlled the board, making the process of enacting the compensation unfair to stakeholders. “Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla’s behalf,” she wrote in her ruling.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Tesla Chairwoman Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package. Shares at the time were up 571% since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9% fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10% of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Things to know: $17.5B oil acquisition, new accelerator focuses on sustainability, and more in Houston energy

take note

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a podcast episode with a biotech leader, a very big oil and gas deal, and events not to miss.


Big deal: ConocoPhillips to buy Marathon Oil for $17.B in all-stock deal

ConocoPhillips is buying Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $17.1 billion as energy prices rise and big oil companies reap massive profits.

The deal to combine the two Houston-headquartered companies is valued at $22.5 billion when including $5.4 billion in debt.

Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year and the cost for a barrel rose above $80 this week. Oil majors put up record profits after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and while those numbers have slipped, there has been a surge in mergers between energy companies flush with cash. Continue reading.

Podcast to stream: Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast

Bioindustrial technologies have a high potential for impacting sustainability — but they tend to need a little bit more help navigating the startup valley of death. That's where the BioWell comes in.

Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, says the idea for the accelerator was came to First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based biomanufacturing investment firm, as it began building its portfolio of promising companies.

"While we were looking at various companies, we found ourselves finding different needs that these startups have," Estrada says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's how the opportunity for the BioWell came about." Continue reading.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. Register now.
  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. Register now.