News Release

Houston-area energy startup incubator wins phase 1 of DOE competition

University of Houston contributes to local hydrogen ecosystem

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Houston


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 about the program, competition and other winners, check out the DOE press release.


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About the University of Houston


The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for excellence in undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse regions in the country, UH is a federally designated Hispanic- and Asian-American-Serving institution with enrollment of more than 47,000 students.


About Climate Impact Capital

Since 2016 Climate Impact Capital has advised energy investors seeking long-term business impact and investment in innovative ClimateTech startups. CIC develops scalable business platform investments via a hybrid venture capital holding model and Venture-as-a-Service program to mitigate greenhouse gas growth, allow for climate change adaptation, and accelerate the energy transition for key technologies like hydrogen and CCUS.

About the Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions

The Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) is one of the largest supporters of technology commercialization in the federal government. Founded in 2015, OTT bolsters the technology industry's market skills and enables clean energy technologies to progress through research, development, demonstration, and to deployment into the private sector to meet our nation’s climate goals. Visit us at to learn more and subscribe to receive our latest opportunities and accomplishments via email. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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