MINNEAPOLIS—JLL recently issued its 2015 Global Life Sciences Cluster Report and for the US, among the top 10 rated regions was Minneapolis-St. Paul, the only metro area from the Midwest to score so high. A total of 44,016 people in the metro area work in the life sciences industry, JLL found, or about 3.0% of the total workforce.

“We have a very robust talent pool,” Brian K. Ginkel, managing director at JLL in Minneapolis, tells GlobeSt.com, “much of it due to the presence of St. Jude Medical, and Medtronic Inc.,” two global medical device manufacturers with primary operations here that “really drive the start-up community.”

“We’ve seen an uptick in the number of smaller start-ups,” he adds, much of this increased activity driven by the metro region’s strong collection of venture capital firms. TreeHouse Health, a Minneapolis-based incubator, for example, was founded by a former UnitedHealthGroup Inc. executive in 2013 and now provides both funding and office space for promising new firms. Start-ups also get a chance to share offices with established players such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Hennepin County Medical Center, which act as anchor tenants in TreeHouse’s 13,000 square foot space. “It’s a strong community backed by two influential organizations; a number of companies are starting to hit the ground running.”

Total investments in life sciences throughout the region reached more than $430 million in 2014, the most ever. Medical device investment was about 75% of that total. JLL expects that based on historical trends the level of investment will increase in 2015. “From a real estate perspective, there are currently more than 500,000 square feet of life sciences requirements locally,” JLL reports, “indicating that strong activity is likely moving forward.”

Another key driver is the presence of the University of Minnesota, a research institution that does a lot of work in medical technology. The National Institutes of Health recently named the university one of three new research evaluation and commercialization hubs nationally and gave it a $3 million grant to increase the commercialization of projects focused on diagnostics tools, medical devices and preventive medicine.

“We’re still a long way from being San Diego,” and other coastal areas such as San Francisco and New York, Ginkel says. But employment in the sector grew by 2.3 % between 2012 and 2013, and furthermore, those jobs were generated by a healthy mix of start-ups, relocations, and the big established firms like Medtronic. He expects that the sector will continue to expand here, and “hopefully we will push our way into the top five in the next few years.”