Skip to main content

Former Sears to Become Innovation Hub Dubbed The Ion

Published Jan 30, 2019 by A.J. Mistretta

The Ion innovation district

Work will begin this spring to transform the historic Sears building in Midtown into the hub of the city’s new innovation district.

Rice University is spearheading the project. The renovated building will be renamed The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot facility designed to bring together entrepreneurs, corporations and academic institutions to collaborate under one roof. According to a news release from Rice, the Ion will support businesses at all stages of the innovation lifecycle, and provide resources for Houstonians seeking to participate in the innovation economy. The facility will mix academics and corporate partners into an environment of educational events, demonstrations, hack-a-thons and programming. The addition of restaurant and entertainment amenities will bring additional activity to the space.

Construction on the project will start in May with completion slated for late 2020.

Mayor Sylvester Turner applauded the creation of an innovation district that will help Houston gain a leadership role in data science and digital tech.  “As I said last year when the idea was unveiled, we have to leap, not stroll, into the economic frontier,” Mayor Turner said. “Now the physical transformation of The Ion will help get us there.”

The Ion will retain signature elements of the original art deco building’s design — including historic corners, glass block windows, decorative tilework and a three-sided storefront with architectural canopies – while large windows will reconnect the open interior to the surrounding streetscape. A new central light-well will shower the building in natural illumination and, from inside, provide unobstructed views across the ground floor.

Station Houston will oversee the public programming at The Ion, which will include entrepreneurial workshops, thought-leadership conferences, industry lectures, job training, educational classes and networking events. Houston-based Hines is managing the development on behalf of Rice Management Company.

The Ion represents the first phase in the development of the broader innovation district, which will cover roughly 16 acres on the south end of Midtown. The district will combine a diversity of commercial development with housing and public spaces.

The innovation district will address the need for what a 2017 Accenture study conducted for the Greater Houston Partnership described as a “natural center of gravity for tech startups.” The report concluded that Houston has a thriving innovation economy, but its potential is limited by the “absence of a flourishing startup ecosystem.” With The Ion as its hub, the innovation district will create a synergistic environment for entrepreneurs, venture capital investors and leading tech industry players.

Read more coverage from the Houston Chronicle and Houston Business Journal
 

Related News

Digital Technology

Houston Data Firm Ranks Among Top 50 Global Advanced Manufacturing Startups

8/11/22
Houston-based Fluence Analytics ranked as one of the top-50 private advanced manufacturing companies in the world, according to a report by CB Insights. The annual report also recognized the data firm, which specializes in continuous analytics and process control solutions for polymer and biopharma industries, as a top startup under the Research & Development (R&D) Optimization bracket.  CB Insights analyzed 6,000 companies based on R&D activities, market potential, investor profiles, tech novelty, competitive landscape and other business factors  to develop the list of  50 most promising advanced manufacturing companies in the world. CB insights then segmented companies into cohorts, showcasing the leading companies those specialties. Fluence Analytics obtained an elite ranking under the R&D optimization cohort, alongside Toronto-based BenchSci and San Francisco-based Benchling.  Fluence Analytics CEO Jay Manouchehri told the Partnership his team is thrilled to see the firm’s work recognized on a global scale. "Our team is very excited that our real-time process analytics, optimization and control products for the polymer and biopharma industries are included among such elite startups,” Manouchehri said.  The new rankings come one year after the company relocated its headquarters to the Houston region from New Orleans. The company relocated  to take advantage of Houston’s talent pool and robust energy and petrol industries, which are Fluence Analytics' key customers.  "There are very, very good people in the Houston area with a lot of diverse experience — oil and gas, petrochemicals, all the service companies, a lot of the contractors and fab shops that we would work with," President and CCO Alex Reed told Houston Inno in Aug. 2021.  Fluence’s rankings showcase Houston’s thriving tech industry, consistently attracting notable companies and strong talent to the region. Houston currently houses over 40 corporate R&D centers and 24 major energy R&D centers.  Learn more about Fluence Analytics as well as Houston’s burgeoning digital tech and advanced manufacturing industries.
Read More
Digital Technology

CHIPS and Science Act To Boost U.S. Leadership in Science and Innovation

8/10/22
Houston is a leader in the new frontier of technology manufacturing. Our region has experienced significant growth in high-tech manufacturing as new entrepreneurs have partnered with local universities and existing industries to accelerate the development and deployment of life saving medical technologies, pioneering energy systems and other advancements benefiting all Americans. On Tuesday, August 9, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law, a piece of legislation ensuring that the United States remains globally competitive in incubating the next generation of tech startups, ideas, and innovators.  This bipartisan legislation will accelerate American-based semiconductor manufacturing and drive investments in technology innovation, research, and development, with the aim of reducing the United States’ reliance on foreign parties. The Act provides a tax credit for American-based semiconductor chip manufacturing projects and provides significant appropriations for the National Science Foundation, regional technology and innovation hubs, and advanced research programs such as STEM grants. In addition to semiconductor manufacturing incentives, the legislation also authorizes $10 billion over five years to create at least 20 regional technology and innovation hubs across the country. The legislation’s hubs program allows eligible consortia to participate in a competition run by the Department of Commerce to designate these regional technology and innovation hubs, and at least 60 strategy development grants will be awarded to help build regional innovation strategies. This legislation signals a federal investment in regional, technology-forward economic development, and the Houston region stands ready to maximize this opportunity.   The passage of the CHIPS and Science Act offers significant economic opportunities for our state and our region. Texas currently has the infrastructure to support new semiconductor projects, and our region’s experience as a center for world-changing innovations has readied Houston to drive our nation’s capabilities for decades to come.  More on the CHIPS and Science Act available here. Learn more about advanced manufacturing in Houston here. 
Read More

Related Events

COVID-19

Economy Series: 2020s, Roaring or Recession: Short Term Outlook for Houston’s Economy

The Partnership's monthly Economy Series presents exclusive data and examines trends impacting our economy on a local and state level. Analysis by the Partnership's Research Division is frequently used by executives…

Learn More
Learn More