The cohort was selected from over 100 applications, and experts from Shell worked to support the cohort as they navigated the program. Photo via Greentown Labs

After six months of incubating with Shell through Greentown Labs, the 2023 Greentown Go Make startup cohort has completed with its recent showcase.

The six participating startups — Caravel Bio, Circularise, Corumat, Lydian, Maple Materials, and Universal Matter — were originally announced in October. The cohort was selected from over 100 applications, and experts from Shell worked to support the cohort as they navigated the program.

Universal Matter, headquartered in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, with a Houston office, is developing a proprietary flash Joule heating process that converts carbon waste into high-value and high-performance graphene materials to efficiently create sustainable, circular economies.

During the program, Universal Matter worked with Shell to identify eight potential collaboration areas across upstream carbon feedstocks, downstream end-use applications for the startup’s graphene, and more, according to a news release from Greentown.

“Go Make 2023 was run with exceptional efficiency to ensure that all startup members were able to gain maximum benefit from exchanges with the corporate partner,” says Universal Matter’s VP of Strategic Planning Peter van Ballegooie.

“The one-on-one exchanges were extremely useful to startups, as they facilitated the connections to the relevant business units within Shell that could potentially benefit from the novel technologies being developed," he continues. "Establishing the connectivity to the right discussion partners within those various business units was absolutely key to the successful outcome of the program.”

Greentown shared more about each of the company's progress throughout the program in a blog post.

Meet the six startups that will be working with Shell and Greentown Labs for the next six months. Photo via Greentown

Greentown Labs names 6 energy tech startups to Shell-backed accelerator

ready to go make

Greentown Labs has named the six participating climatetech startups for an accelerator for a global energy leader.

Shell and Greentown Labs announced the cohort for Greentown Go Make 2023 — a program designed to accelerate partnerships between startups and corporates to advance carbon utilization, storage, and traceability solutions. Shell, which invests in net-zero and carbon-removal technologies, is hoping to strategically align with startups within carbon utilization, storage, and traceability across the energy transition spectrum.

“At Greentown Labs we recognize and appreciate the role energy incumbents must play in the energy transition, and we’re eager to facilitate meaningful partnerships between these impressive startups and Shell—not only to advance these technologies but also to help Shell achieve its sustainability goals,” Kevin Knobloch, CEO and President of Greentown Labs, says in a news release. “We know carbon utilization, storage, and traceability will play a critical role in our collective efforts to reach net-zero, and we’re enthusiastic about the potential impact these companies can have in that work.”

The cohort, selected from 110 applications, is co-located at Greentown's Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, locations and includes:

  • Portland-based Caravel Bio is developing a novel synthetic biology platform that uses microbial spores and enzymes to create catalysts that are long-lasting and can withstand extreme conditions and environments.
  • Circularise, which is based in the Netherlands, is developing a blockchain platform that provides digital product passports for end-to-end traceability and secure data exchange for industrial supply chains.
  • Corumat, based in Washington, converts organic waste into high-performance, insulating, greaseproof, and biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts-headquartered Lydian develops a fully electrified reactor that can convert a variety of gaseous, non-fossil feedstocks into pure syngas with high efficiency.
  • Maple Materials from Richmond, California is developing a low-cost electrolysis process to split carbon dioxide into graphite and oxygen.
  • Ontario, Canada-founded Universal Matter develops a proprietary Flash Joule Heating process that converts carbon waste into high-value and high-performance graphene materials to efficiently create sustainable circular economies.

The program, which includes $15,000 in non-dilutive stipend funding for each company, will work closely with Shell and Greentown over six months via mentorship, networking opportunities, educational workshops, and partnership-focused programming to support collaboration. Go Make 2023 concludes with a showcase event on March 27 at Greentown Labs’ Houston location.

This week, Shell announced another accelerator cohort it's participating in. The Shell GameChanger Accelerator, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), named four West Coast climatetech companies: DTE Materials, Hexas Biomass, Invizyne Technologies, and ZILA BioWorks. The program provides early-stage cleantech startups with access to experts and facilities to reduce technology development risk and accelerate commercialization of new cleaner technologies.

“Tackling the climate challenge requires multifaceted solutions. At Shell, we believe technology that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be essential for lowering emissions from energy and chemical products,” Yesim Jonsson, Shell’s GCxN program manager, says in a statement. “The companies in GCxN's sixth cohort embody these objectives and have the potential to usher in a more sustainable future.”

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Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

mixed reviews

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

coming soon

Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

“We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”