2021 Inland Empire Innovation Highlights

By Blended Impact & CSI-UCR |

The innovation ecosystem in the Inland Empire—whether measured by startup formation, acquisitions, investments, jobs, or research and development activities—has grown significantly in the past decade. This tremendous growth offers great promise for our region’s resilient and innovative communities, and continues to push back on the decades long narrative that the I.E. is a region of “cheap dirt”, where developable land is plentiful and highly-skilled labor is scarce. With an ever growing skilled workforce, numerous higher education institutions graduating thousands or bachelor’s and master’s degrees each year, and significant funding and investment gains, our region is poised to capitalize on this progress expanding and strengthening local partnerships, while also playing a much larger and significant role in the regional SoCal ecosystem. 

Last year's growth and progress proved that the innovation ecosystem in the Inland Empire is as strong and resilient as ever. In spite of the challenges and massive and lingering economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the I.E. experienced impressive gains this past year including:

  • Over $100 million dollars in adjusted investment activity per partial data from Crunchbase, which is before a full picture of funds raised within university and incubator supported companies
  • Over 128% YOY growth in crowdfunding investments according to data provided by KingsCrowd
  • 37 private equity acquisitions, the highest on record for the region (data available from 1997-2021)
  • 4 new innovation centers across the region
  • An ever-increasing number of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees being awarded in the region
  • A 120% increase in STEM related job postings since 2016, outpacing the state, LA County, and San Diego County. 
  • The Inland Empire ranking higher than the state on 3 out of 5 indicators on the new Innovation Index, funded by the US EDA

Given the growth and emergent strength of the Inland Empire innovation ecosystem, it will be important for economic and policy decision-makers to seize the moment and 1) invest in ecosystem builders who can bolster the region’s ability to drive deeper collaborations, 2) shape a stronger narrative for internal and external audiences, and 3) strengthen emergent relationships and partnerships that connect the Inland Empire with the larger Southern California ecosystem. 

For more information, please read our full supplement here: Inland Empire Innovation Ecosystem Highlights - 2021. You can also explore each innovation sector in detail here, including 2021 highlights.