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The Faith in Enterprise Award Fund was launched today at the Houses of Parliament by Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

This national initiative of the Cathedral Innovation Centre and movement, housed at Portsmouth’s Cathedral House, has the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and comprises a £200,000 fund of micro-loans of £2500 to £7500, backed up by access to mentors.

It is open to anyone aged 18 to 30 on a rolling basis from 9 May 2013 to 13 March 2014. There are additionally at least five Chairman’s Awards totaling £50,000 in value, comprising a free start-up office for up to two years (wherever the winners come from), access to senior business mentors and senior level advisors from government and politics, a £1,000 grant, and an interest-paid loan of £10,000; applications are to be received by 30 September 2013 at

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced the Faith in Enterprise Award Fund at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith in Society, saying:

“There are many budding young entrepreneurs out there with superb ideas who just need a bit of extra support to get started. By tapping into the skills of our faith communities, and the energy of volunteers, the Faith in Enterprise Awards are a fantastic way of turning their good ideas into real business ventures that will create the growth and the jobs this country needs.”

The Cathedral Innovation Centre in Portsmouth is the first Innovation Centre launched by a cathedral, and the first financed through the sale of community shares. It offers a resource to those founding fledgling businesses, combining low-cost office space, business mentors, and access to seed funding as well as a programme of leadership development courses and events designed to help develop a socially responsible generation of managers across the country.

The cathedral Innovation Centre and movement is a partnership between the cathedral, the Royal Society of Arts, the University of Portsmouth Business School, and the Roman Catholic diocese of Portsmouth. A letter of support from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, was read out at today’s launch, which said:

“I am particularly sorry not be with you in person to mark the launch of the Faith in Enterprise awards, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say how very pleased I am that these awards will enable faith communities to support young entrepreneurs as they develop and establish new businesses.

"Portsmouth Cathedral Innovation Centre has led the way in this by welcoming new businesses into its office space and supporting their leaders with advice, with encouragement and with much needed practical and financial support. These awards will help extend that work across the country.

“I am, of course, thrilled that a Church of England cathedral is so involved in this project. But I am even more pleased that it is a shared work, with partners in the Faith in Enterprise awards including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, the RSA, Portsmouth Business School, Elevation Networks and Faith Action and that the awards will be open to young entrepreneurs of any faith or none, with local support being drawn from across the faith communities.

“I am convinced that there is much more that can be done by religious and civil society organisations working together to enrich our communal life, so I am delighted to commend not only these awards, but also the collaborative model they have at their heart.”

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, said:

“In uncertain economic times I am pleased that the Cathedral Innovation Centre, itself launched in and from our diocese, is creating opportunities from which every locality might benefit.”

The Dean of Portsmouth, the Very Rev David Brindley, also attending today’s launch, said:

“Cathedrals have long been hubs of economic and social innovation. It is fitting that the Cathedral Innovation Centre has created a national award which is open to those in every city and town. Integral to our own mission, we hope that religious leaders and congregations everywhere will take up its cause and encourage people to apply.”

Francis Davis, CEO of the Cathedral Innovation Centre, said:

“The Cathedral Innovation Centre sees these Awards as a crucial next step in its contribution from Portsmouth and well beyond it. It builds on the two 100 per cent MBA scholarships that we are already offering for those who have a passion for innovation and social responsibility - and there is more to come.”

Click here to see the full story on the Church of England website.