Big Data a Billion Dollar Industry in Massachusetts, Report Says

A new report profiles the exploding big data industry in Massachusetts, one of the nation's leading examples of the world's most powerful innovations.

by / March 8, 2016

Big data is a big trend everywhere, and especially in Massachusetts, according to a report released March 8.

The report, called Massachusetts Big Data Indicators 2015, highlights the metrics behind a flourishing regional big data ecosystem that includes more than $2.4 billion in private investment in Massachusetts' big data companies since 2013. The exceptional growth in the commonwealth represents a national trend positioning data as the new business currency of the decade.

“It’s big validation that this data-driven economy that we’re supporting and trying to lead in certain aspects and convene is very much thriving,” said Mary Rose Greenough, director of program development at the Innovation Institute at MassTech, one of the report's publishers. “The other piece is that we have all the important components that make for a global leading big data ecosystem. So we have the talent here. We have the universities and the research centers. We have the companies, we have the startups, we have the investment.”

The report, also published by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, highlights statistics that point to big data growth in government, across the private sector, and in the research and education realms. In the past two years, the commonwealth has seen the creation of 53 new big data firms, millions in funding awarded to 194 computing and analytics projects, and more than 6,000 STEM graduates who attended more than 70 big data-related programs at 22 learning institutions. Big data patents also rose — 46 percent between 2010 and 2014.

“The takeaway is how you build a big data ecosystem, how do you leverage whatever a region or a state has right now in big data and how do you capitalize on it?” Greenough said. “How do you attract companies? How do you retain companies, how do you retain the talent pipeline and avoid brain drain? And certainly all of us in the tech sector grapple with all that every day.”

Massachusetts might serve as an example to the nation of what’s possible in big data, she said, and what the pieces are to achieve those results.

“The word’s ‘explosion,’” Greenough said. “It’s growing so incrementally, we know there’s an enormous skills gap. The output from universities and data science programs still can’t keep up with the demands of industry, research, public sector, etc. Now it’s the most common commodity in business. It’s kind of like what software used to be. Every organization will in some way have to become data-driven.”

The 64-page report contains overview and analysis of the Massachusetts big data ecosystem, and can be downloaded for free at massbigdata.org.

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.