BioCity Scotland, the country's largest business park and incubator space for life sciences companies, is to launch a public-private innovation hub which aims to massively grow Scotland's life sciences sector by teaming together with bio-pharmaceutical and big data companies, Scotland's 16 universities, NHS Scotland and Scotland's eight innovation centres.

Managers at BioCity Scotland believe that the collaborative approach between the private and public sectors will foster the success of more start-up and spin-out companies in Scotland by giving them the opportunity to learn from and work together with major healthcare practitioners, entrepreneurs and scientists. The new innovation hub will be officially launched at a conference on innovation in the life sciences sector to be held at BioCity on 28th and 29th April.

Confirmed partner companies for the hub include multinational pharma company Johnson & Johnson, venture capital firm Epidarex Capital and technology giant Toshiba.

Diane Harbison, BioCity Scotland's managing director, said she hoped the innovation hub would "help to catalyse new company creation and really benefit the life sciences sector in Scotland".

"We are basically trying to engineer serendipity that will help grow the sector," she said. "Life sciences is a key growth sector of the Scottish economy and is set to double in size in the next five years."

"Offering support to Scottish universities and industries by partnering with major healthcare practitioners, entrepreneurs and scientists will provide a tremendous boost to the life sciences sector in Scotland."

Harbison added that BioCity's central location on the M8 at Newhouse made it the ideal place to attract talent from across the country.

Ken Sutherland, of Toshiba Medical Visualisation Systems which employs over 120 staff at its Edinburgh base to design and develop advanced medical visualisation software, said that his company's participation in the hub would hopefully give it "the opportunity to have first sight of developing technologies which we can help commercialise".

"It will also give us the chance to meet and engage with new talent and ideas which could support Toshiba's global healthcare business."

Meanwhile, Verity Brown, vice-principal of the University of St Andrews, said she hoped that partnership with the innovation hub would help the university spin out more companies and aid in the process of commercialising the university's research.

The 23-acre BioCity Scotland site was gifted by healthcare giant Merck, Sharp & Dohme after it closed it Scottish operations in 2010.

The BioCity Scotland facility, which has become a focal point for Scotland's life sciences sector since opening in 2012, provides high spec laboratories and office space, as well as access to expertise, finance and a community of like-minded people.

The business park and incubator site is currently 50 per cent occupied and space is rented out to ten companies, employing almost 100 people. The largest and perhaps best known company on site is the stem cell therapy company Pharmacells which currently employs 11 staff but has plans to hire nine more in the coming months. BioCity Scotland's aim is to have 50 companies on site employing 500 people by 2017.

The life sciences sector in Scotland employs an estimated 33,000 people across 640 companies and organisations. The sector has been set the ambitious target of doubling in size by the end of the decade which will mean doubling annual turnover to £6.2 billion and gross value added (GVA) to £3bn.

In 2007 the sector was designated by the Scottish Government as one of six key sectors of the national economy that would help to deliver growth in the years to come. The other sectors are food and drink, financial services, energy (including renewable), tourism and the creative industries.

BioCity Scotland has received backing from the Scottish Enterprise, the European Commission, the Roslin BioCentre in Midlothian and North Lanarkshire Council.