The firm said 2020 funding here totaled $1.3 billion, which is 7.6% higher than the historical five-year average, and 29.2% higher than 2019.
Jason Lantgen, a JLL executive vice president based in Irvine, noted that business went forward last year despite the pandemic that hit the world’s economy.
“Orange County has been and will continue to be a leading hub of innovation specifically in the device space, specifically in ophthalmic space,” Lantgen told the Business Journal on Jan. 29. “You can’t replace those jobs and put them somewhere else.”
OC’s ophthalmic-focused companies include Staar Surgical Co. (Nasdaq: STAA) of Lake Forest and Glaukos Corp. (NYSE: GKOS) in San Clemente.
Lantgen adds: “The software industry is similarly strong here.” Leading OC software companies include online video games makers Blizzard Entertainment, data analytics company Alteryx Inc. (NYSE: AYX), and investment app company Acorns Advisers LLC, each in Irvine.
“The economy and the ecosystem here have evolved,” Lantgen said. “‘And it’s just something I think that will continue to change and evolve over time.”
The company’s report said demand for research and development in life sciences was strong prior to the onset of COVID, and the pandemic has only fueled this demand.
“Startups and mature companies are exhibiting the need to keep pushing the innovation bar forward,” JLL said.
Lantgen said of his clients in the innovation economy: “They’re bullish, they’re long whether it is funding rounds or economic look, it is positive.”
COVID-19 has caused some rethinking of the workplace of the future, however.
“We’re doing a considerable amount of consulting in terms of planning the future workplace,” according to Lantgen.
“I’m having discussions right now with a number of my software clients about discontinuing their leases, not extending them and actually sitting tight to wait for another six or 12 months before we actually start thinking about what the workplace looks like,” he said.
The JLL report said the medical device industry led all funding with $485.7 million in 2020 in OC accounting for 37% of total funding.
The report said that the pandemic has fueled demand for further research and development in life sciences, with three of the top four funded industries in 2020 coming from this industry.
Companies receiving large funding rounds last year include defense and border protection company Anduril Industries in Irvine at $200 million, biopharmaceutical company Novus Therapeutics in Irvine at $108 million (since renamed to Eledon Pharmaceuticals) and dental tech company Sonendo in Laguna Hills with $85 million, according to the figures compiled by the brokerage.
JLL said its report was based on its own research and on figures available through investor-information company Crunchbase.
It notes that companies that were funded in the fourth quarter included medical tech company RxSight of Aliso Viejo at $60 million, sports recovery products maker Hyperice in Irvine at $47.8 million and electronic switching company Menlo Microsystems in Irvine with $44 million.