The Cathedral Innovation Centre (CIC) is providing entrepreneurs with office space, start-up loans and mentors.
The office space is owned by Portsmouth Cathedral and the CIC was launched as part of its response to the recession.
The CIC will nurture business ideas and entrepreneurial talent as one way of addressing local social and economic needs.
As well as driving innovation, it is hoped the scheme will create jobs and provide new purpose to under-used buildings.
It is already preparing to roll the scheme out across the nation and is inviting members of the public to help finance the expansion.
The cathedral is looking for 2,000 people to become shareholders in the CIC by investing £75 or more to help the work grow.
Monsignor Vincent Harvey, the parish priest for St Joseph’s and St Edmund’s RC Churches in Southampton, is working to open the next centre in church buildings in the city’s Bugle Street.
Discussions are also taking place for new centres in Derby, Cheshire, East Anglia, Bournemouth and the North East.
The CIC at Portsmouth Cathedral had its official launch on Wednesday by Baroness Berridge and government minister Mark Hoban.
Baroness Berridge 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.”
There are already nine firms at the Portsmouth CIC, including a computer games firm, a catering company and a business that redevelops old land for wider civic use.
Together they occupy 14 desks and in the coming days, they will each be recruiting three new apprentices thanks to the CIC’s backing.
The CIC is a partnership between the cathedral, the Royal Society of Arts, the University of Portsmouth Business School, and the Roman Catholic diocese of Portsmouth.
Mr Hoban was among those to step forward and buy a share. He is encouraging others to do the same.
“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.”
Francis Davis, chief executive of the Cathedral Innovation Centre, said it 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.”