From Together, We Are Building a Bigger, Better Texas

The Future is Texas

The imminent global impact of innovative activity conducted in the state will be one to watch.

XBiotech is advancing infectious disease R&D capabilities at its Austin HQ campus.
Photo courtesy of XBiotech

by Lindsay Lopp

merica may be dubbed the land of opportunity, but there’s a reason our world’s innovators flock to set up shop within the confines of Texas’ borders.

The state presents a leveled playing field eager for new participants ready to hit the ground running, providing resources fit to motivate and inspire. Whether an entrepreneur or a corporate executive, Texas has become an attractive destination to invest long-term.

Innovation is taking precedent across every industry and as a result has allowed for every corner of the state to serve as a hotspot for future growth. The work taking place now around the state is dedicated to the advancement of traditional practices and creating a healthier world to live in.

Gulf Coast Innovation

In January 2024, decarbonization technology developer 8 Rivers Capital LLC announced that Port Arthur, Texas, would be the location of its Cormorant Clean Energy project. 

It is here that the company will construct its low-carbon ammonia production facility, which will be the first ever commercial scale use of 8 Rivers’ 8RH2 hydrogen process technology. This technology uses pure oxygen and pressurized CO2 to convert natural gas into high-purity hydrogen or ammonia, a process that cuts production costs and nearly all carbon emissions.

“In many ways, Port Arthur was a natural place for us to look when exploring a location for our first commercial 8RH2 deployment,” says 8 Rivers Chief Operating Officer Steve Milward. 

“Port Arthur, and the Gulf Coast region more broadly, provides Cormorant Clean Energy with strategic access to existing energy industry infrastructure. The region is also already home to many legacy oil and gas production sites and other heavy industries, making it possible for us to tap into a workforce that can bring relevant, transferable skills to Cormorant’s development and operations.”

The innovative project has many benefits that can be reaped by Texas, in addition to the projected 1.4 million tons of carbon captured annually and a 99.9% carbon capture rate. For starters, the 880,000 tons of ammonia produced here per year can be used as an low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels for various industrial processes and hard-to-abate industries such as transportation or agriculture.

8 Rivers Chief Inventor Rodney Allam was the one to pioneer the use of oxy-combustion for eliminating CO2 emissions and lowering costs through the company’s Allam-Fetvedt Cycle Project in 2018. The results of this project served as a driving force for the affordability, scalability and sustainability of the current 8RH2 technology for a large-scale commercial setting.

“With so many hydrogen and industrial decarbonization projects slated for deployment in Texas this decade, we don’t believe any one technology or approach can be considered a missing piece. However, as Texas’ energy industry evolves, one area where we believe 8RH2 and Cormorant Clean Energy will bring unique value is through design and scalability,” says Milward.

The 8 Rivers team, who will own and continue to develop the site, consulted third-party experts on the technology’s technical and economic calculations before bringing this project to light. Development of the Port Arthur site is expected to bring over $1 billion in investments and create over 95 direct jobs and more than 1,000 construction jobs over the next three years.

A Biotech Boost

While Texas’ capital city Austin is still considered an emerging market in terms of life sciences, the region holds an ever-growing cluster of more than 300 companies and a skilled talent pool of over 21,000.

The growing life sciences network covers every aspect of the industry including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biotechnology and health care information technology.

Cushman & Wakefield’s February 2024 Life Sciences Market Update shows that 257,000 sq. ft of facility space is currently under construction with 884,000 sq. ft. proposed for buildout. In addition, the city’s 10-year employment growth rate is projected to grow by 42.3%, beating out the Dallas-Fort Worth metro. 

Promising projections are supported by new project investment from companies looking to accomplish every level of operations in one location. Austin-based biotechnology company XBiotech Inc. has taken that next step by announcing in January 2024 that it would soon begin to scale its R&D capabilities within the city. XBiotech will construct a new four-story, 46,000-sq.-ft. R&D facility on the company’s 48-acre site. 

XBiotech stated that the new addition will serve as its hub for clinical and medical operations, with an emphasis on boosting its Natrunix rheumatology program. The new space will also include space for commercialized teams and wet laboratories for its infectious disease programs that include cancer and cardiovascular disease research.

“We are excited to begin construction of what will be a unique and remarkable R&D facility. It will add significant operational capability to our existing manufacturing and R&D operations on the campus and will create among the most capable biotechnology operations in Texas,” said XBiotech President and CEO John Simard in the official announcement.

The company’s HQ in the city houses everything from manufacturing facilities, research and testing labs and R&D facilities to quality control and clinical operations, giving credence to the talent and range of the region’s industry. 

Time to Play

The innovative ecosystem in Texas has helped draw the likes of California-based Plug and Play to establish three locations in Cedar Park, Frisco and McKinney, Texas, with plans in place to further expand here in years to come.

Plug and Play works to connect startups, corporations, venture capital firms, universities and government agencies to new ideas through its innovation platform and programs. With over 50 offices around the globe, the company caters each office to the needs of its specific region. For startups, Plug and Play offers programs that are catered to any stage of development the entrepreneur may be in, allowing for not only network building but access to mentorship and investment opportunities. As of 2023, more than 2,700 startups have participated in Plug and Play’s various accelerator programs.

Doors opened to the company’s first Texas location in Cedar Park in February 2024, bringing an advanced manufacturing program catered to supply chain, mobility, semiconductors and artificial intelligence. A goal for this program is to advance manufacturing as we know it today, striving for efficiency and excellence within production processes. As of now Plug and Play has 10 startups in its first accelerator program at Cedar Park who are due to graduate in May 2024.

“Through our global network, we are able to hand-pick mentors and resources that can help startups with their specific needs to get to their next level. We use learnings from other offices focusing on the industry. We are also proud to partner with the City of Cedar Park for them to offer resources to help support the startups putting down roots in the area,” says Plug and Play Marketing Director Allison Romero.

Last year, Plug and Play launched a Sportstech program in Frisco, located 25 minutes north of Dallas. This program focuses on innovation within smart stadiums, e-sports, sports platform technology, devices and preventative healthcare, to name a few areas. The region’s rich sports history made it the ideal location to explore how technology can influence how sports are played and experienced in Texas.

“Our decision to launch in Frisco, in partnership with the Frisco Economic Development Corporation, is motivated by several key factors. Known as Sports City USA, Frisco is home to a diverse range of sports organizations and top-notch facilities such as The Star, Toyota Stadium, PGA of America Headquarters, Comerica Center and Rough Rider Stadium,” says Romero. “Moreover, our choice to establish Sportstech in Frisco underscores the increasing significance of technology in enhancing sports performance and human potential.”

Mayor of Frisco Jeff Cheney said that this investment in the city is directly in line with where Frisco needs to be in fostering not only resources for entrepreneurs but in creating a collaborative ecosystem with corporations. He states that, “Frisco has big ambitions when it comes to fostering innovation as our goal is to be the Venture Capital Capitol of the Central U.S. by 2040,” and a center for innovation like this will be a vital asset.

In the midst of establishing locations in Cedar Park and Frisco, the city of McKinney caught Plug and Play’s attention. Rapid economic growth, geographical location and a flourishing tech ecosystem in the region were crucial factors in creating a space here. 

Enterprise & AI are of initial focus at this new location, which opened in March 2024, with plans to scale and include a fintech program the company plans to build upon in North Texas. Frisco will additionally gain the fintech program, focusing on wealth & asset management, payments, retail banking, crypto & digital assets and more. The only U.S. location out of 12 established fintech programs worldwide that currently exercises this program is in Silicon Valley, showcasing the potential North Texas holds for the industry.

“Our goal is to grow the Texas startup ecosystem by expanding our verticalized programming beyond our current focuses of Advanced Manufacturing, Enterprise & AI, Fintech and Sportstech,” says Romero. “We aim to customize these programs for each region, incorporating new vertical programs such as Health, Mobility, and Aerospace & Defense.”

Over the next few years Texas is set to dominate in innovation covering all of its leading industries. A growing list of innovative companies are choosing Texas to address the needs and challenges that the world could face in years to come. The opportunities that exist within the state continue to multiply as homegrown and global companies choose to invest in the state’s talent and ideas. 

Lindsay Lopp
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Lindsay Lopp joined Conway Data in 2023. She is the assistant editor of the company's Custom Content division and regularly contributes to Site Selection magazine. In 2021, she graduated from Pratt Institute with her BFA in Creative Writing and is currently completing her MFA in Popular Fiction and Publishing at Emerson College.

Texas is drawing companies from across the U.S. with its famously pro-business climate, robust infrastructure and world-class workforce.

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