£100m support for industry expected at Cardiff BioWales conference

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Image caption The medical technology and pharmaceutical industry is worth £1.3bn to the Welsh economy

Plans have been unveiled to provide around £100m support for the medical technology and pharmaceutical industry in Wales.

Over 15,000 people are employed by the life sciences - the study of living organisms - in Wales.

Business minister Edwina Hart and Port Talbot born biotech millionaire Sir Chris Evans outlined the plan at the BioWales conference in Cardiff.

The Welsh government is investing £50m in the fund over the next two years.

The rest is expected to come from private sources.

Professor Evans, founder of Merlin Biosciences, has been appointed by the Welsh government to head up the panel to support the industry.

He says Wales is good at developing new ideas but poor at taking them to the next level by attracting funding.

There are around 330 life science companies in Wales contributing more than £1.3bn to the Welsh economy.

Prof Evans said: "There are hundreds of little products and technologies incubating away in these companies.

"Then you've got some great universities with lots of clever professors and great break-through technologies.

"All of that needs to join up with some real money and some real commercial talent.

He said Tuesday's announcements were a "watershed" for the industry.

"Collectively when these things are integrated we are going to see Wales move right up the scale in the next several years on the international scene."

He said it would create "billions of value" and "significant jobs."

"This really is a very important day and a very exciting day and it's a day when we begin a new era."

The conference aims to allow delegates to investigate new business opportunities, build contacts and discuss potential collaborations, licensing and manufacturing deals.

BBC Wales business correspondent Nick Servini said investment in life sciences was "long-term and high risk."

Ms Hart told BBC Wales the fund would help establish new companies and attract existing ones.

"I'm not risk averse in any sense at all but I do have confidence in the advice I've been given by my panel which is to go for it," she added.

"We want Wales to be a good place to do business whatever business you are in and we are particularly keen on encouraging life sciences."

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