Life science village launch at GE Healthcare in Cardiff

Life sciences research at Swansea University
Image caption About 11,000 people are employed in life sciences across Wales

A "hothouse" for growing hi-tech life science companies is being unveiled in Cardiff on Monday.

GE Healthcare is setting up an innovation village at its base to help develop businesses and new ideas.

The first phase will have labs and space for 12 small firms but 50 have expressed an interest since the idea was first announced last month.

Life sciences - developing new drugs and health technologies - is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Wales.

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Media captionKieran Murphy, chief executive, said it was about nurturing 'world class science'

There is a life sciences hub already established in Cardiff for businesses and health organisations to work together under one roof.

Wales is also the only country in the world to have a designated £100m fund to attract life science companies to relocate here.

The campus at Forest Farm Industrial Estate is backed by £367,000 of Welsh government and EU funding - aimed at encouraging businesses to collaborate.

GE Healthcare will provide advice on turning ideas into products and to market them across the world.

ANALYSIS - BBC Wales economics correspondent Sarah Dickins

Life sciences encompass a wide range of companies from pharmaceuticals to diagnostics and even e-health. It brings together experts in a broad selection of disciplines.

It is already very important to the Welsh economy and has the potential to make a real difference.

The sector employs 11,000 people in Wales in 350 companies, with a combined turnover of £2bn. The jobs tend to be relatively high skilled and better paid but the economic impact goes beyond that.

The Welsh government is supportive of the sector and recognises it has the potential to help lift the wider economy, especially if new technologies or products are developed here.

Until now and across the economy Wales has not had a good record in terms of the numbers of patents given to products developed here. It hopes the growing Welsh life sciences sector will help to change that.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said it was a "tremendous opportunity" for growing businesses.

Kieran Murphy, president and chief executive GE Healthcare Life Sciences, said: "We can both support their development with our expertise and scale, and potentially access promising new technologies that could complement our own."

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