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Thursday, September 20, 2018

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As a hub of innovation, ERP home to more than parking lots


Chemical and petroleum engineering doctoral candidates Pushpesh Sharma and Jae Lee work in the ERP Wet Labs. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The Energy Research Park, or ERP, is right outside UH’s main campus, and many students ride through it on the shuttle while on their way to class. But the ERP is more than just a parking lot. It serves as a central hub for research innovation at UH. With eight out of the 16 buildings used for research, one of the most important parts of ERP is the wet labs.

ERP, at 5000 Gulf Freeway, sits on just under 700,000 square feet of land and houses 16 buildings. What used to be the Schlumberger North American headquarters — a company that provides technology to the oil and gas industry — was purchased for over $27 million by the University of Houston System in 2009.

Director of UHS Properties Jason Trippier works in the Office of Real Estate Services. Trippier works on what is labeled as the “Administrative Garden North.” Buildings one through three are administrative buildings.

“We have finance, accounting, IT, the Office of Real Estate and Services, the property management company (Trans Western), and enrollment services,” Trippier said.

On the other side of the garden, there is the Urban Forest Bayou South. The back of ERP stretches down to the bayou.

Coming soon to ERP: A bike and pedestrian path that winds through the forest and connects the parking lots to the rest of UH and hundreds of miles of Houston bike paths.

“[Students] can either walk or ride a bike on the trail,” Trippier said. “It should be no more than a five or 10 minute trek to get back and forth.”

Wedged between the Administrative Garden and the Urban Forest is the Industrial Partnership section which allows other companies to conduct work here and set up a headquarters or a production space. The big company in the Industrial Partnership section is Mayer Electric, which sells electrical supplies.

Loans, not tuition or state money, funded the University’s purchase of ERP from Schlumberger North America.

While the university pays back it’s loans, companies pay rent on the buildings in ERP which makes it self-sustaining.

The part that gives ERP its namesake is the middle section: the Innovation Academic Research section.

Building four houses the Innovation Center, a resource for staff and alumni to start their start-up businesses.

Buildings nine and 14 are home to petroleum engineering and a diesel labs respectively. Along with a research lab, the petroleum engineering building has teaching labs and classrooms for engineering students.

One of the major players in the Innovation Academic Research section is building 15, which houses Dr. Venkat Selvamanickam’s research group studying high-temperature superconductivity, and the Advanced Superconductor Manufacturing Institute.

Superconductors can transmit current with zero loss across any distance while creating no heat. This means that machines can operate more effectively and create new technology like that in trains and MRIs.

As a home to dozens of offices and research facilities, the ERP helps UH get closer toward its goal of being a hub for innovation and research — meaning, it’s more than just far-away parking.

The Energy Research Park is divided into four divisions, including the Innovation Academic Research sector, which houses the Industrial Partnership, where other companies can work. | Courtesy of Jason Trippier

 

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