The state of Massachusetts is a major U.S. center of big data, says Stephen O’Leary, an M&A advisor with Aeris Partners and executive committee member of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. It’s only poised to get hotter.

Stephen O'Leary, managing director of Aeris Partners LLC

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kendall Square as vibrant as it is right now.”

As managing director of Aeris Partners LLC, Stephen O’Leary spends most of his time on mergers and acquisitions of tech companies: application and infrastructure software, analytical software, business information, digital media companies. Aeris is based in Kendall Square, an area of urban Cambridge, Massachusetts, that’s bursting with IT companies. (Kendall Square is also home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MIT Sloan Management Review.)

O’Leary also serves as a trustee and member of the executive committee of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), a business association focused on “fostering entrepreneurship and promoting the success of companies that develop and deploy technology across industry sectors.” O’Leary was MassTLC’s chairman in 2009 and 2010.

During his tenure as MassTLC’s chair, O’Leary ushered in the “MassTLC 2020 Challenge”: An effort to spur the state’s technology industry to create 100,000 new IT jobs and an additional 163,000 related non-IT jobs over the next 10 years.

In a conversation with David Kiron, executive editor of Innovation Hubs at MIT Sloan Management Review, O’Leary talked about why the Kendall Square region of the state is so hot, what new companies he’s paying attention to, and why he’s especially intrigued with the idea of embedding power sources right into the nation’s highways.

Let’s start with MassTLC’s call to grow employment in the information technology space in the state from 178,000 to 278,000. What metrics did you start with to come up with that 100,000 number?

We started with a study on Massachusetts employment initiated by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and developed by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, under the leadership of Mike Goodman, an economist at UMass Dartmouth.

When MassTLC took a look at this study and started to analyze the nature of the industry in the state, it was readily apparent that we had some really good, fundamental innovation resources here.

Obviously, we’ve had a 30-plus year history in the technology space as a region. Secondly, we have the second-largest venture capital cluster on the planet. And third, we have a wealth of universities that any location would die for.