The country's latest proposed enterprise area which is home to a number of life science companies could see employment boosted by another 180 new jobs in the next five years, according to the Scottish Government.

The First Minister announced plans to designate BioCity in North Lanarkshire as an enterprise area earlier this month, together with the extension of existing zones until 2010.

Nicola Sturgeon said a potential 1,800 jobs could be created by extending the status of all existing zones, based on growth rates already seen across the 15 enterprise areas.

She toured the BioCity site today with Deputy First Minister John Swinney as part of a visit to neighbouring Coatbridge for the latest in the Scottish Government's series of travelling cabinets.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Enterprise areas in Scotland at sites like Irvine and Edinburgh's Bioquarter are already doing a terrific job creating new economic opportunities, new partnerships with education and - most importantly - new jobs across the country.

"Here at BioCity we expect to see up to 180 new jobs - highly skilled and high-value jobs in an area where we are continuing to work hard with partners to make sure the benefits of economic growth are felt across the board."

Four enterprise areas across 14 sites in Scotland were created more than three years ago, focusing on manufacturing, life sciences and low-carbon renewable energy sectors.

Businesses receive incentives tailored to the individual characteristics of each site, with the majority benefiting from business rates discounts and some offering streamlined planning, high-speed broadband, international marketing assistance and skills and training support.

Dr Diane Harbison, managing director of BioCity Scotland, said: "The boost that having enterprise area status will give to BioCity Scotland is huge.

"Businesses based here will now be able to take advantage of business rates relief, faster planning applications, skills support and assistance in accessing international markets.

"We are already home to some potentially world-class life science businesses and we hope that this announcement will help us attract even more, bringing with them more high quality jobs for the area."