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

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.

Here's what energy transition companies stood out to Rice Alliance's experts. Photo via Rice Alliance

Investors name 10 most-promising energy tech companies at Houston conference

startups to know

At the 20th annual Energy Tech Venture Forum presented by Rice Alliance for technology and Entrepreneurship, 11 startups scored recognition from the event's investors who evaluated over 90 early-stage energy transition companies.

"The selection process was both exhilarating and challenging given the incredible ideas we've seen today," says Jason Sidhu, director of information services business engagement at TC Energy, who announced the top companies. "I want to extend my gratitude to every company that participate din this year's Energy Tech Venture Forum. Your commitment to solving energy problems and pursuing ambitions ideas is truly commendable."

In addition to the top 10 most-promising companies, the event's attendees decided the people's choice pick out of the 50 or so pitching companies. The winner of that recognition was Calgary, Alberta-based Galatea Technologies, which has created a tech platform to enhance workflows for operational, financial, and environmental performance.

The top companies, according to the Rice Alliance experts and investors, were:

  • Circular economy startup, Polystyvert. Based in Montreal, the company has created a unique dissolution recycling process that creates a material that can contribute to cutting carbon emissions by up to 90 percent.
  • United Kingdom-based Miricoprovides a tracking technology to its customers to measure climate gases (like methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ammonia), across areas up to half a square mile and in all conditions.
  • ProteinEvolution, from New Haven, Connecticut, taps into a combination of green chemistry and enzyme technology to break down synthetic polymers.
  • Another Canadian company, Ayrton Energy, based in Calgary, created a liquid organic H2 carrier (LOHC) storage technology presents an opportunity for large, scalable and efficient transport of H2 over long distances.
  • Also representing New Haven, Connecticut, Carbon Loop is on a mission to make carbon capture and conversion scalable through carbon dioxide electrolysis using a proprietary catalyst to convert captured carbon dioxide into methanol.d
  • Based in London, Mobilus Labs has designed a new way for frontline communication with an in-helmet hardware and software solution. software solution designed for the frontline workforce.
  • 1s1 Energy, based in California, is working on producing low-cost green hydrogen by creating new materials to unlock unprecedented electrolyzer efficiency, durability, and more.
  • From Skokie, Illinois, Numat is specializing in solutions within Metal-organic framework (MOF) research to enhance the process of separating the hazardous chemicals negatively impacting human health and the environment.
  • Mantel, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a molten borate technology to capture CO2 in a new and efficient way.
  • The lone Houston-based company,Mars Materials is working to produce acrylonitrile using CO2 and biomass to enable decarbonization applications in carbon fiber and wastewater treatment.

Ten companies from around the world were named as most promising. Photo courtesy of Rice

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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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

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.

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.”

———

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.”