Collaboration, proactive branding, and a focus on data science education and talent development will propel North Carolina to the top of the data economy, according to a new report published today by the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation (BSTI).

“North Carolina has significant assets to steam ahead in the data economy: marquee companies, strong centers and programs at the state’s public and private universities, large numbers of workers and university graduates critical to the industry, and relevant national organizations,” according to the report NC in the Next Tech Tsunami: Navigating the Data Economy.

Cary, N.C-based SAS is one of many high-profile players in the data economy with operations in North Carolina.

The new report identifies North Carolina’s many assets and advantages for companies that rely on the ability to successfully collect and manipulate data. (Find out more about those assets on EDPNC’s website.) However, it also suggests areas for improvement. For example, despite the state’s high ranking in important technology sectors, data professionals rank the state about 12th in the country for data economy leadership, the report says.

“The data economy can generate new, high-paying jobs in all industries, in all jobs, and in all areas of the state,” said Anthony M. Copeland, North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce. “We must ensure we have the educational and economic ecosystems in place to support these new jobs because diverse industries like manufacturing, agriculture, and health care all will require more sophisticated data skills from their employees.”

Data science is not just for technology companies either, according to the report. North Carolina companies as varied as R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, Norfolk Southern Railroad, and General Electric use data for insights into customers, products, and operations.

The report describes the state’s tremendous educational data assets at the community college, undergraduate and graduate university levels. Many global companies providing tools for the data economy such as SAS, IBM, Inmar and Red Hat reside in North Carolina. Other leading companies in the state’s key life sciences sector such as Quintiles and Biogen, and in the critical financial sector like Bank of America and Fidelity Investments, rely on data to compete.

The report offers recommendations that include elevating the data economy to the top of state economic development priorities, increasing the number of data startup companies, creating a pipeline of data science literacy, branding the state as the “Open Data” state, and increasing the amount of data science research.

“Although North Carolina has tremendous data assets, we need to focus our efforts on connecting and branding them,” says Scott Doron, project leader and associate sirector of the Office of Science, Technology, & Innovation, a division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

To create the report, BSTI partnered with the National Consortium for Data Science — a public/private collaboration housed at the UNC Chapel Hill Renaissance Computing Institute.

The initiative’s next step is the formation of a public/private working group to implement the recommendations. For more information and a copy of the report, visit here or email Scott Doron.