- Cleantech startup incubator Greentown Labs announced Tuesday it would expand to a facility in Houston, the first location outside its Somerville, Massachusetts, headquarters, by spring 2021.
- Greentown Labs offers office space, resources, networking and labs for prototype testing to climate- and environment-focused companies. The group has supported more than 280 startups, which have created more than 6,500 jobs, raised $850 million in capital and generated $1.5 billion in regional economic impact.
- The 30,000-square-foot Houston location will include prototyping laboratories and office space for 50 early-stage companies, and will support the city's moves from "energy capital of the world… [to] the energy transition capital of the world," said Greentown Labs CEO Emily Reichert at a press conference. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the expansion will advance the city’s "innovation ecosystem," while simultaneously helping it progress toward its climate action plan goals.
Like many U.S. cities, Houston has an ambitious plan to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2050, in keeping with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The city plans to curb emissions in transportation and buildings while also moving away from fossil fuels, according to Turner, which have been the backbone of the city’s economy but have contributed to the effects of climate change.
Houston and the energy industry have been "inextricably linked" for decades, but a new climate plan gives the city an opportunity to honor that legacy while turning the page into a new energy future. "While it was historic for Houston to launch its climate action plan, the real success will be putting that plan into action," Turner said during the press conference.
In the announcement of Greentown's expansion, Chevron, Shell, NRG Energy and BHP were listed as "Founding Partners," with officials from those organizations all emphasizing their desire to reduce emissions and carbon footprints. Like Turner, multiple energy officials said they support the "energy transition," a trend that bore fruit earlier this year when Shell invested in mobile ticketing platform Masabi and noted the "need to take vehicles off the road by transitioning drivers to become riders."
Greentown chose Houston in part because efforts to fight climate change cannot just be limited to major coastal cities. In a statement, Reichert said we "need all hands on deck at this time." That is in keeping with prior research finding that mid-sized cities — not just the large, high-profile ones — can make a major impact in curbing climate change.
Reichert said Houston has plenty to offer in the United States' efforts to become less dependent on fossil fuels, and Greentown Labs can help harness that potential. "We believe the engineering strength, talent, and assets of the energy industry in Houston can and must be redeployed toward a decarbonized future," she said in a statement.