Research released last week at the George Washington University Virginia Science & Technology Campus in Loudoun County confirms what many in our region suspected: Northern Virginia and the Potomac region have the resources, knowledge and expertise to advance their leadership position in big data and analytics and drive future economic development.

The research also shows our region faces a significant talent gap, with local industry demand outpacing regional output of big data and analytics graduates.

“Big Data and Analytics in Northern Virginia and the Potomac Region,” released by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, GWU and the consultancy Attain, catalogues the breadth and depth of regional big data and analytics experience, expertise and assets. Richmond-based Chmura Economics & Analytics conducted the research based on focus groups with regional technology leaders and a survey of organizations active in the sector.

Among the nation’s premier high-tech centers, this region is home to a growing number of companies that provide and use big data as a core competency. Eighty-seven percent of Northern Virginia companies that responded to the NVTC survey already have active or planned big data projects. These companies generate an estimated 716.6 terabytes (roughly 716,000 gigabytes) of new data on an average day. The majority of their big data- and analytics-related sales are provided to customers within the region, reflecting a growing local big data ecosystem and a competitive advantage for our region.

Our region’s domain expertise in intelligence, national security, cybersecurity and health care, combined with our proximity to the federal government, is another competitive advantage, as companies in our region leverage big data on behalf of the government, which produces, stores and manages some of the largest data sets in the world.

If our region is to continue leading in the field, a skilled big data workforce is paramount. Such occupations already make up an average 11 percent of the workforce in respondent companies. These companies expect 3 percent average annual growth in big data employment through 2017, or more than three times the forecasted growth for all occupations over the next decade.

Fortunately, the region’s academic institutions are preparing to address this gap. Seventy percent of those responding to the survey already, or intend to, offer big data courses or programs by 2015; 90 percent expect within five years. GWU, for example, partners with IBM for its big data degree, and is making significant investments in its big data infrastructure, including the Computational Biology Institute and forthcoming genomics and engineering research institutes. Combined with the efforts of local companies to bolster the skills of their current employees, our big data workforce is poised to grow significantly.

Our vibrant big data ecosystem, including industry expertise in managing and interpreting data, proximity to the federal government, and local academic institutions developing new talent, confirm that the nation’s data capital is well positioned to compete for, and win, big data market share and opportunities.

Greg Baroni is chairman and chief executive of of Attain, a Vienna-based technology, strategy and management consultancy, and Ali Eskandarian is dean of the George Washington University Virginia Science & Technology Campus.