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Houston-Area Energy Startup Incubator Wins Phase 1 of DOE Competition

University of Houston Contributes to Local Hydrogen Ecosystem

By Rashda Khan 713-743-7587

hydrogen worker

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) selected Texas Innovates, a non-profit organization focused on hydrogen and carbon innovation and expansion in the greater Houston and Gulf Coast region, as one of 23 phase 1 winners of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Round 3 competition. Notably, Texas Innovates is the only Texas entity to advance to phase 2 of the competition.

“We have been working towards this day since we identified the need for energy hardware incubation in 2017 and were a finalist in 2019 for C40 Cities global competition to make Houston’s Velasco Incinerator site in the Second Ward a vibrant live, work, play community focused on energy hardware incubation,” said Alex Rozenfeld, president of Texas Innovates. “We now move to the hard work of implementing our ambitious plan and working together to make it successful.”

The winning proposal, titled “Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation & Learning Incubator” (CHILI), will harness local partner academic resources, including University of Houston’s integrated hydrogen curriculum and Rice University’s energy innovation programs at the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The vision is to create a comprehensive local hydrogen startup ecosystem, which includes the DOE HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub and other large-scale efforts.

As a part of the Houston hydrogen ecosystem, CHILI will provide startups with incubation, access to partner laboratories, and scale-up support for hydrogen, CCUS, and related industry technologies. It will also help startups overcome technical, regulatory and commercial barriers.

Texas Innovates board members include Rozenfeld, who is managing director and founder of Climate Impact Capital LLC, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, and Sergio Kapusta, faculty at Rice University and former chief scientist at Shell.

EPIC phase 1 winners receive $150,000 each to support energy startups and entrepreneurs nationwide. In phase 2, spanning seven months, the organizations will implement their programs and have an opportunity to negotiate a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT, worth up to $1 million each. It also includes two national pitch competitions.

“Incubators and accelerators are uniquely positioned to provide startups things they can't get anywhere else -- mentorship, technology validation, and other critical business development support,” shared DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Vanessa Z. Chan. “The EPIC program allows us to provide consistent funding to organizations who are developing robust programming, resources and support for innovative energy startups and entrepreneurs.”  

The EPIC program aims to encourage energy innovation ecosystems, increase local business productivity and improve the commercial success of energy startups. To learn more the program, competition and other winners, check out the DOE press release.

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