Massachusetts Spurs Growth with IoT

Zipcar moves into South Boston's Innovation District

Massachusetts is leading the way in high-tech areas like the Internet of Things, big data, cyber security, and healthcare.

That’s according to a new report by the Mass Technology Leadership Council and UMass Donahue.

The report—part of MassTLC’s 2020 Challenge to drive growth in the broader economy and to create 100,000 new tech jobs by the year 2020—says Massachusetts technology companies created about 17,650 new jobs between 2010 and 2014, and the state has been steadily adding a slew of research grants and growth initiatives.

Startup accelerators—including the world’s largest accelerator program MassChallenge—have been growing steadily across Massachusetts, and major companies like Amazon, Dassault Systemes, Facebook, Google, IBM, J&J, Microsoft, and Paypal have all either opened new facilities or expanded their research centers in the state. South Boston’s Innovation District is home to ZipcarRethink Robotics, and Verizon.

As part of a $50 million grant program and other capital investments, the Commonwealth is also driving major growth industries like robotics.

It’s not a surprise then that emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, seems to be clustered in the Massachusetts area.

Experts predict that the connection of more than 50 billion “things” over the next decade will unleash as much as $6.2 trillion in new economic value. The IoT, which transforms mechanical and electrical components into complex systems of hardware, software, electronics and sensors that can collect vast amounts of data, will disrupt the basic structure of industries and create new competitive advantage.

“Massachusetts is a natural fit for IoT because we already have all the key parts of that ecosystem,” says Jim Heppelmann, CEO of Boston-based software company PTC.

“The state is filled with major players in the communications and computing infrastructure that IoT requires. Companies such as Sensata Technologies are delivering the sensor and control technology needed to generate vast new amounts of machine data and companies like EMC providing the technology needed to capture and secure all that new data,” Heppelmann says.

“We also have a heavy concentration of companies such as PTC that develop the technology and applications to design, connect, and service the new generation of smart, connected products. Those include devices from global companies with a massive local presence, such as Philips Healthcare, Schneider Electric, and even Waste Management with its BigBelly connected trash compactor.”

And Mass-based tech companies are certainly bullish.

According to a 2014 survey by Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), three-quarters of the Commonwealth’s technology companies plan increases in investment in new products/business lines, 67 percent plan increases in technical and nontechnical staffing, and 51 percent plan increases in marketing and in technology expenditures.

But creating new research and job opportunities is only one part of the puzzle, the MassTLC report warns.

Retaining graduates from local colleges and universities, attracting more career-oriented individuals from outside the region, and investing in K-12 STEM programs are vital too.

Agile curriculum development and employer collaboration with higher education is critical. Community colleges will need to collaborate with employers to develop programs that teach marketable entry-level skills and matriculate to four-year degree programs, the report says.

Continuing to actively recruit woman and minorities to the tech sector is also be key. And Massachusetts does a better job at this than the rest of the United States.

Women and minorities in tech occupations in Massachusetts represent a larger share than in most competing technology states. Massachusetts’ growth rate of 21.4 percent from 2009 to 2013 was the second-highest for women among competing tech states.

Finally, in order to continue growth and meet the goals laid down by the MassTLC’s 2020 Challenge, the Commonwealth must address the legal, regulatory and cost hurdles that inhibit growth and innovation for businesses, the report says. Tax policy, regulatory and legal reform, and energy and healthcare costs are all factors that contribute to competitive advantage.

 

Photo by Colm O’Molloy for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

 

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