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Cathedral launches innovation centre to 'unlock entrepreneurial talents'

The pioneering Cathedral Innovation Centre (CIC) at Portsmouth’s Anglican cathedral is seeking to develop a network of similar ventures across the UK ...

The pioneering Cathedral Innovation Centre (CIC) at Portsmouth’s Anglican cathedral is seeking to develop a network of similar ventures across the UK.

The Centre, a ground breaking social enterprise, was officially launched recently by Baroness Elizabeth Berridge and government minister Mark Hoban. It is providing entrepreneurs with office space, start-up loans and mentors to create new businesses in offices owned by Portsmouth Cathedral. But more than that it is setting out to unlock entrepreneurial talents, ideas and assets to address pressing economic and social needs in a fresh way.

To fund its expansion beyond Portsmouth, Baroness Berridge and Mark Hoban also launched the UK’s first ever community share offer from a cathedral-backed initiative and the first community share offer focused on innovation and job creation. People from any part of the country can invest £75 or more to help the work grow and so become shareholders in the CIC, which is a mutual.  

The first shares were snapped up by senior politicians, business people, community leaders and clergy who all want the fledgling cause to thrive. Now the Centre needs to find 2,000 more like them.

The guests invited to last night’s (April 30) launch heard that plans are already advanced for a similar base in a Roman Catholic church in Southampton and in Havant. The cathedral innovation centre is already in dialogue regarding similar centres in Derby, Cheshire, East Anglia, Bournemouth and the North East.  

Baroness Berridge, who first announced the scheme in the House of Lords last year, said: “This isn’t just one Cathedral Innovation Centre, but the start of a movement. It’s about providing jobs, which is the best expression of hope, providing a real sense of self-worth. I’d like to pay tribute to the cathedral and the leaders of the Roman Catholic churches in Southampton for grasping the vision, and look forward to others joining the campaign.”

The Cathedral Innovation Centre (CIC) unlocks the time and skills of volunteer mentors, seed funding and under-used buildings to create hubs in which firms can be founded and grow. It also runs a national series of events and leadership programmes focused on developing and emerging generation of socially responsible managers. It was initiated as part of the cathedral’s response to the recession.
 
Nine different firms are now being supported in Portsmouth, with that number set to double. In the coming days one of them will recruit three new apprentices thanks to the CIC’s backing. To date they include a computer games firm, catering company and a business that redevelops old land for wider civic use, taking over 14 spare desks.

The initiative is a partnership between the cathedral, the Royal Society of Arts, the University of Portsmouth Business School, and the Roman Catholic diocese of Portsmouth. And last night (April 30), it was announced that the university would provide two Cathedral Innovation Centre Scholarships for the Portsmouth MBA (Master of Business Administration) aimed at those from any sector who want to focus their reflection on public, private or civic innovation.

Mark Hoban MP, the Minster of State for Employment, praised the combination of making space, money and business expertise available to new entrepreneurs, and urged others to buy a £75 share in the CIC.

“This is a fantastic project, and a way of getting people into work,” he said. “Each of us putting forward £75 is a really powerful way of giving financial support to businesses. Often business people have really good ideas, but no capital to get the business going. It can also be very lonely running your own business, and you feel a lot of responsibility, so having people around you to give advice and guidance is also helpful.

“This is saying to the people who are looking for work that we aren’t just talking about it, but we are doing it as well.”

Monsignor Vincent Harvey, the parish priest for St Joseph’s and St Edmund’s RC Churches in Southampton, explained that the CIC’s next centre would open in church buildings in the city’s Bugle Street.

And Francis Davis, CEO of the Cathedral Innovation Centre, explained how the cause was ‘more than just a property solution’.  

“We are seeking to refresh the commitment to combining economic recovery with social and civic recovery too,” he said. “Where will the next generation of great innovations such as the John Lewis Partnership and Traidcraft, Dyson and the internet, come from if we do not recombine all our resources with a fresh energy? With hardly any resources we have levered in-kind support of £500,000. So every pound invested in us really is a commitment to value for money and a social return on each penny.”

For more information, contact Francis Davis on 07799 711083 or francistdavis@gmail.com, or see www.cathedralinnovationcentre.com.

Pictured above are three of the first investors in the new community share scheme (from left): Fareham MP Mark Hoban, Minister of State for Employment; Baroness Elizabeth Berridge; and the Dean of Portsmouth Cathedral, the Very Rev David Brindley

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