Skip to main content

Energy Transition, Resiliency and Innovation Among Key Topics of London Visit

Published Nov 25, 2019 by Javier Vargas

London Stock Exchange.JPG

Members of the Partnership delegation at the London Stock Exchange

An international delegation led by the Greater Houston Partnership traveled to London earlier this month to strengthen business ties between Houston and the British capital. 

Headed by President and CEO Bob Harvey and Senior Vice President of Economic Development Susan Davenport, the group met with several firms who have headquarters in London but also have significant operations here in Houston. 

U.S.-U.K. Business and Trade Ties

In 2018, trade between Houston and the United Kingdom was valued at $7.3 billion, an increase of nearly 34% from the previous year, making Houston the fourth busiest gateway for U.S.-U.K. trade by value. 

The Partnership’s visit to London began with updates from the Department for International Trade (DIT) and London & Partners. Both are key organizations advancing business and trade relations in the U.K. 

DIT is the U.K. department responsible for striking and extending trade agreements between the United Kingdom and non-EU states, as well as for encouraging foreign investment and export trade. DIT officials provided an overview of the current U.K. energy market, as well as recent developments, including CCUS (carbon capture, utilization, and storage), oil and gas, and offshore wind. The group also discussed the U.K.’s smart cities initiatives, an area of increased focus for Houston. 

As the London counterpart of the Greater Houston Partnership, London & Partners works to build the city’s international reputation, attract foreign investment to the region and retain and grown London’s businesses. CEO Laura Citron led a conversation on the organization’s operations model, as well as the growing ties between London and U.S. businesses.

London & Partners.JPG
With London & Partners

Global Energy Transition

With global energy demand growing and an increasing global effort to transition to a low-carbon economy, another key theme of the mission focused on the future of energy. The delegation met with the London office of Royal Dutch Shell to discuss the company’s renewable energy plans and the desire to attract and expand this sector in Houston. Its subsidiary, Shell Oil Company, is based in Houston, along with the largest of Shell’s three technology centers working to find solutions for current and future energy challenges.

The Greater Houston Partnership also visited BP’s global headquarters to discuss similar opportunities for renewable operations in Houston. Houston is home to BP’s U.S. headquarters and the company’s largest employee base anywhere in the world. The company’s current renewables presence in Houston includes BP Wind Energy’s Remote Operations Center, which centrally monitors all BP-operated wind farms, as well as the Center for High-Performance Computing, which is home to one of the world’s largest supercomputers for commercial research.

Flooding and Resiliency

The delegation met with Bechtel to discuss ongoing efforts to make the Houston region more resilient to severe flooding events by designing, building and financing flood mitigation infrastructure. Bechtel’s large presence in Houston includes the company’s Oil, Gas & Chemicals division, as well as the Downstream and Technology Center. The London office has taken a lead role in some of the U.K.’s most important projects, including the West Coast Main Line, Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1, the nation's first high-speed rail line. 

The group also met with Jacobs to provide a briefing on the federal, state and local funding appropriated to the Houston region following Hurricane Harvey and discuss ways to strengthen our cooperation and collaboration in sustainability and infrastructure development. Jacobs partners with government, cities and businesses in more than 50 countries, with projects which include designing master plans for entire regions and critical infrastructure. 

Jacobs.JPG
With Jacobs

Innovation 

At the conclusion of the trip, the delegation met with Here East, a tech-focused campus and co working space that occupies a building constructed for the 2012 Olympics. The former International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre of the London Olympics now provide 1.2 million square feet of dedicated and versatile space for startups and entrepreneurs to co-exist and collaborate with top global businesses and world-renowned academic institutions. 

After a tour of the complex, Here East representatives discussed challenges and best practices of establishing and running a major innovation center in a global city, a timely conversation for Houston with July’s groundbreaking of The Ion. Anchoring the 16-acre South Main Innovation District in Midtown Houston, the 270,000-square-foot innovation hub will bring together entrepreneurs, venture capital, corporations and academia to collaborate under one roof. 

Overall, the delegation’s trip to London yielded several discussions and new ideas for the Houston region.

Learn more about Houston’s trade relationship with the United Kingdom here. Read more on our region’s innovation ecosystem. The Greater Houston Partnership’s efforts to address resiliency can be found here.
 

Related News

Economic Development

Houston to Become Home to the Nation’s Largest Urban Solar Farm

1/20/21
In another step towards Houston growing its Energy 2.0 ecosystem and leading the energy transition, last week the Houston city council unanimously approved the lease of 240 acres of city-owned land in the Sunnyside neighborhood to Sunnyside Energy, LLC, a subsidy of Wolfe Energy. The Sunnyside Solar Project, an innovative public-private partnership, is expected to be completed and operational by the end of 2022. It will be the largest brownfield solar installation in the nation. "We applaud the actions of Mayor Turner and the City Council in taking this significant step. It is a strong vote of confidence for this impactful project,” Dori Wolfe, Managing Director of Sunnyside Energy LLC said in a recent press release. The project will be anchored by a 50-megawatt ballasted solar array that will generate enough energy to power 5,000 homes and offset 120 million pounds of CO2 each year. "We are the energy capital of the world, and we’re now seeking to lead in the energy transition," Mayor Sylvester Turner told the Houston Chronicle.  As part of the City's Climate Action Plan and Complete Communities Initiative, the Sunnyside Solar Project contains sustainability and resilience initiatives, as well economic development components, including educational attributes and promises to train and employ local labor.  The project will also transform an abandoned landfill that has been a challenge for the Sunnyside community for over 50 years. “The Sunnyside landfill has been one of Houston's biggest community challenges for decades, and I am proud we are one step closer to its transformation," said Mayor Turner in the press release. "I thank the Sunnyside community because this project would not have come together without its support. This project is an example of how cities can work with the community to address long-standing environmental justice concerns holistically, create green jobs and generate renewable energy in the process.” Learn more about how Houston is leading the energy transition, Energy 2.0 efforts and Houston innovation.
Read More
Economic Development

What Houston Can Look Forward to in 2021 

1/4/21
Following a year filled with extraordinary challenges, the Houston region is looking ahead to 2021 with cautious optimism. The last 12 months brought significant economic development wins to the area in the technology, new energy and aerospace sectors, among others. But the pandemic-induced recession that gripped the world cost this metro dearly in terms of lost jobs and business. Still, a slew of major projects and much-anticipated initiatives are set to materialize in 2021 as Houston works toward a broad recovery.  The Vaccine Rollout  Though the deployment of approved COVID-19 vaccines is a global undertaking, the continued recovery of the Houston economy hinges on the effort. Of the 350,000 jobs lost early in the pandemic, Houston-area employers have added back about half that figure. Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski forecasts the region could regain another 35,000 to 52,000 jobs, mainly in the latter half of 2021. But the final figure depends heavily on efficiency of the vaccine rollout. “As the pandemic subsides, a wave of pent-up demand will be unleashed,” Jankowski said in December. The sectors contributing most to job growth in this region are likely to be administrative support services, health care and social assistance, and manufacturing and professional services, according to the forecast.  87th legislative Session  State lawmakers face some difficult decisions when the 87th Texas Legislative Session gets underway January 12. The pandemic has taken a big bite out of state revenue and that could prompt budget cuts out of Austin in key areas. The Partnership has released its Texas Legislative Agenda that focuses on two broad executive priorities—access and energy competitiveness—as well as eight other areas important to the business community. The Access priority includes a focus on policies to improve public education and higher education, narrowing the digital divide and improving access to health care. The Partnership Public Policy team is working closely with lawmakers to help craft measures in each of these areas.    Innovation  Groundbreaking of TMC3  Officials at the Texas Medical Center expect to break ground in 2021 on TMC3, a world-class life science complex that will bring together the best minds in medicine across several institutions. The 37-acre project will include shared and proprietary research centers, multi-disciplinary laboratories, health care institutions, a hotel and conference center, retail, and a unique double-helix green space – totaling almost 3.7 million square feet of developed property. TMC officials say the complex slated to open in 2023 will add an estimated 17,000 jobs and $5.4 billion to the Houston economy.  Groundbreaking of Axiom Space Headquarters   The company planning to construct the world’s first commercial space station announced in December that it would run the project out of the Houston Spaceport. Axiom Space said it plans to break ground in 2021 on a 14-acre headquarters facility where it will build the Axiom Station and train private astronauts. The move was heralded as a major development in Houston’s bid to reenergize its leadership role in the aerospace industry. Officials with the Houston Spaceport believe Axiom Space’s project could draw suppliers and other companies in the sector looking to capitalize on the region’s engineering and technical workforce.  Click to expand The Ion Opening of The Ion  Anticipated to become the epicenter of Houston’s burgeoning innovation ecosystem, The Ion will complete major construction in Q1, allowing tenants that include Microsoft, Chevron Technology Ventures and Common Desk to begin their buildouts. The 288,000-square-foot facility located on Main Street in Midtown will offer rentable coworking space for startups, as well as office space for corporate partners and more advanced startups. Ground level retail is also part of the plan from developer Rice Management Co. The Ion will anchor a 16-acre innovation district that will, in time, include additional office space, residential, retail and other components.  Opening of Greentown Houston  Just steps from The Ion, Greentown Labs is in the process of converting a former Fiesta grocery store into a second location of its successful climatech incubator. Projected to open in spring 2021, the incubator will provide more than 40,000 square feet of prototyping lab, office, and community space for about 50 startup companies that could total up to 300 employees. Greentown Houston is the first outpost of the Somerville, Mass.-based climatech incubator, which aims to foster emerging new energy companies. It’s a major step in Houston’s bid to help lead the global energy transition to a lower carbon future. The project is the first major addition to Rice Management District’s 16-acre innovation district beyond its anchor, The Ion.  Opening of East End Maker Hub  The first of three phases making up the new East End Maker Hub will soon be complete. The 300,000-square-foot project being steered by TX/RX labs and Urban Partnerships Community Development Corp. is going up on Navigation Blvd. in the East End. The expansive makerspace will have dedicated areas for companies operating in 3D printing, fabrication, hardware innovation and more. While the first phase focuses on suites up to 20,000 square feet geared toward an array of uses, phases two and three slated for completion later this year will include dedicated spaces for both light and heavy fabrication as well as crafting suites. The East End Maker Hub will make it easier for local manufacturing startups to secure the space and resources they need for success.    Development  Click to expand Montrose Collective Opening of The Montrose Collective  In what promises to be a game-changing development for the Montrose neighborhood, a major mixed-use project slated for completion near the end of 2021 will bring together retail, office and civic uses in a multi-structure midrise. The Montrose Collective will include more than 150,000 square feet of space spread across five buildings near the prime intersection of Montrose Blvd. and Westheimer. The project will feature space for up to six restaurants and 15 different retail shops, as well as a new Houston Public Library branch. It’s a level of density not yet realized in the historic neighborhood that, if successful, could prompt other such projects nearby.  Completion of Texas Tower  A number of office and residential developments are currently under construction downtown. But perhaps the largest commercial project set to open in the district this year is the 47-story Texas Tower rising on the site of the former Houston Chronicle headquarters. At 1.1 million square feet, the office tower will be the newest jewel in the crown of development company Hines when it opens in Q4 complete with built-in networking spaces, a conference facility, 12th floor public gardens and multiple ground-level restaurant spaces. Already reportedly 40% leased, the debut of Texas Tower will be a test for a downtown district rocked by COVID-19 and the corresponding shutdown of many office and commercial spaces.  Click to expand An aerial rendering of Post Houston Opening of Post Houston  It’s been more than five years since the former Barbara Jordan Post Office on the northern edge of downtown was decommissioned with developers promising something exciting for the space. That promise will be realized late this year when Post Houston opens with restaurants, an international market, creative workspaces and a 210,000-square-foot rooftop park and garden. Lovett Commercial says future additions to the 550,000-square-foot project will likely include a concert venue and a hotel. Post Houston could prove to be a catalyst for additional projects on the north end of downtown along Buffalo Bayou, an area that has not experienced the same level of redevelopment activity as other parts of the city’s core. It will also create a new destination on the northern end of the city's Innovation Corridor.  Phase One Completion of Autry Park  Rising above the south side of Buffalo Bayou along Allen Parkway, Hanover Company’s Autry Park promises to be an “urban village” complete with more than 1,400 residential units, 350,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of high-end retail—all positioned around a central green space. The 14-acre development is set to open in three phases, with the first phase slated for completion in Q4. It’s one of several high-density developments materializing west of downtown along Buffalo Bayou that aim to take advantage of the waterway and its linear park.  Opening of Houston Farmers Market  In a city known for serving up authentic foods from around the world, there hasn’t been a one-stop-shop for experiencing all that Houston has to offer. A three-year effort from developers MLB Capital Partners and acclaimed Houston Chef Chris Shepherd aims to reinvent the Houston Farmers Market on Airline Drive into just such a destination. The first phase of redevelopment of the 18-acre site, including new buildings and public spaces, is now complete. A butcher shop, fast casual and sit-down restaurants are among the concepts set to open first, alongside existing produce tenants and other longstanding vendors. Phase two of the project, which includes an open-air pavilion, one-acre greenspace and retail is also set to come online in 2021. The Houston Farmers Market aims to become a destination for locals and visitors wanting to experience a wide array of flavors and culinary-focused shopping in one place.  Learn more about Houston as a business destination and living in the region. 
Read More

Related Events

Digital Technology

PARTNERSHIP WEEK: Priority Panels

Partnership Week continues with panel discussions featuring business leaders around topics critical to Houston's growth.  Senior Partnership staff, board and industry leaders will engage in conversations…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners