Venture capital funding rose for the first time in four years in 2004, aided by growing economic optimism, specifically in technology and health care, according to research to be released today.

The jump in investments boosted Bay Area startups, including a San Francisco digital animation studio and a Hayward firm that is developing a new treatment for diabetes, according to San Francisco research firm VentureOne.

Venture investments totaled $20.41 billion last year, up 8 percent from 2003 and making the first year-over-year increase since the technology market collapsed in 2000, said VentureOne research manager Matt Garlick.

“In general, there is more optimism for technology today than a year or two years ago,” he said. “It is a more positive environment.”

The total number of financing rounds dipped slightly by 1.2 percent to 2, 067. But the size of the investments rose after three consecutive years of decline from $18.91 billion in 2003 to $20.41 billion last year, VentureOne said.

Most of the money went to information technology firms, which got $11.34 billion, up about 9 percent from 2003. But the biggest percentage increase was in health care, where startups got $6.58 billion, up 11 percent.

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