Massachusetts’ New Big-Data Initiative to Include MIT, Intel, and HackReduce

Who will own the emerging tech-business field of “big data”? Answer: probably no one entity or geographical region. But the state of Massachusetts is putting its best foot forward this week, with an assist from Intel, MIT, and some local big-data leaders.

Wednesday afternoon, at 2 pm, Governor Deval Patrick will announce a new big-data technology and business initiative from the state. The event will take place at the Stata Center at MIT, and other speakers will include Susan Hockfield, MIT’s president; Justin Rattner, the chief technology officer of chip giant Intel; and Daniela Rus, the new director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

From what I’m hearing, the initiative—which has the official (and rather techie) name of “Massachusetts Big Data Analytics”—will consist of a few main components. One is the formation of a consortium of 100-plus local companies, research groups, and other organizations working on, you guessed it, big data and analytics. Another is a new internship program intended to place some 2,000-plus students from around the world into data/analytics companies in Massachusetts. And another piece is a grant program, whereby the state will provide matching funds for research projects at universities around the state. On the corporate side, Intel is committing several million dollars—the figure I’ve heard is $13 million—presumably over a few years, to support research projects on big data and analytics at MIT, specifically.

Lastly, the state plans to contribute $50,000 over two years for HackReduce, an incubator-style hacker space near Kendall Square that will provide large-scale computing resources and mentorship for big data projects. Before you say, “Not another tech incubator,” this one is pretty different. It is a nonprofit and is open to anyone; the plan is for applicants to submit proposals for six-month projects. Something like 10 to 20 projects will be chosen for the initial group; they can be in any field, such as analysis of environmental data, city transportation flow, finance, or healthcare, medical, and genomic data. The community space is slated to open next month in a building near Kendall Square; the lease hasn’t been finalized yet.

HackReduce is spearheaded by Fred Lalonde, the founder and CEO of Hopper, an online travel and information-discovery startup based in Boston and Montreal. Lalonde is assisted by such luminaries as Chris Lynch, the former CEO of Vertica (now with Atlas Venture), and Steve Papa, the former CEO of Endeca. His advisory board includes Sam Madden, an MIT professor and database expert. It sounds like they are pretty far along in recruiting an executive director for HackReduce, who will lead the program full-time.

The project grew out of big-data “hackathons” that Lalonde has helped organize in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Boston over the past year or so. The goal is to “build a permanent version of this road show,” he says, and to put “the world’s largest concentration of big data” experts and facilities in Boston, … Next Page »

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