GlaxoSmithKline has announced the launch of a new $50 million innovation fund to invest in early stage breakthrough research.

The global drug giant said Thursday the fund will identify strategic investment opportunities within Canada's life sciences industry, research centres and start-up companies.

"The GSK Canada Life Sciences Innovation Fund will provide a competitive advantage to Canada's life sciences industry and help advance the commercialization of research," Paul Lucas, president and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Inc., said in a statement.

"This is an important step in addressing Canada's innovation gap and we're excited by the prospect of developing even closer ties with leading research organizations across Canada to enhance opportunities for innovation and create new high-value jobs."

Moncef Slaoui, the global chairman of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, said establishment of the fund demonstrates the company's confidence in Canada as an important source of development for medicines of value for patients.

The new fund was launched at an event in Toronto attended by company officials, government representatives and leaders from the scientific community.

The fund will be managed by GlaxoSmithKline in Canada and GSK's global corporate venture capital arm SR One.

Founded in Britain, GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world's biggest drug companies, making drugs, vaccines and other treatments for respiratory illnesses, diabetes, viral infections, and central nervous system disorders.

The company, with 2,700 Canadian employees, is also Canada's biggest maker of flu vaccines and has plants in Ontario and Quebec.