To maximize the benefits of the new data driven economy, companies need access to, and must be able to utilize, advanced computing technologies and analytics expertise. However, many businesses, job seekers, and workers face barriers as they adjust to the evolving data-driven workplace. Now, using a $220,000 grant over 3 years from the US Economic Development Administration (US EDA), the New Jersey Big Data Alliance (NJBDA) will offer programs to reduce these barriers.
The NJBDA project, Technical Assistance in Big Data: Empowering Businesses in Opportunity Zones to Adjust to the New Data-Driven Economy, will offer technical assistance and internship opportunities that will further build New Jersey into a big data powerhouse. The programs will target Opportunity Zones and distressed communities in Cumberland County, New Brunswick, and Newark.
Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, PhD, Executive Director for Economic Development and Innovation at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, and project lead on the grant, stated, “Companies that know how to use advanced computing technologies have a distinct advantage. Big data has become so pervasive and the opportunities it presents so transformative, that the ability to analyze it and glean valuable information is now viewed as essential for competitive growth.”
Through the Technical Assistance Program and Big Data Internship Program funded through the grant, the NJBDA will train companies and workers in the use of advanced computing technologies and analytics, and connect them to the software and hardware infrastructure and expertise necessary for leveraging these technologies to become more competitive and achieve business growth.
Programs and resources will align with industry clusters in each region. These clusters are significant sources of employment in New Jersey and have the potential for job creation and growth. Cumberland County is the hub of a food and agriculture cluster. New Brunswick is home to a life science and advanced materials cluster, while Newark is the epicenter of a logistics and distribution cluster.
The NJBDA’s Technical Assistance Program will deliver workshops in the targeted geographic regions for companies and workers on topics that include analyzing big data, implementing insights gleaned through data analysis, and managing big data projects. Industry project partners and NJBDA affiliate members from target regions will provide input to ensure that the workshops address industry needs.
Another aspect of the Technical Assistance Program is the development of a Technology Asset Database. The database will help businesses find technical expertise and equipment. NJBDA has identified a lack of knowledge about where to find this information as a significant barrier to adopting advanced computing technologies. The new database will point to software, hardware, specialized technology and datasets that NJBDA member institutions can share with industry.
Other programs funded by the grant include a Big Data Internship Program which will be open to students of NJBDA member institutions and will run for the duration of the three-year grant. The interns will provide technical help to companies in the target regions.
Brennan-Tonetta summarized the motivation for applying for this funding, ” From an economic development perspective, advanced computing technologies and analytics skills will continue to be critical assets to generate business value and new jobs. Thus, it is important for disadvantaged communities to have access to resources that enable them to participate in this new data-driven economy. The NJBDA, as the state’s designated cyberinfrastructure consortium, it is dedicated to building New Jersey’s capabilities in the era of Big Data.”