A new initiative launched this week looking for 10 of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs who are working to tackle energy problems, and making real, sustainable change in their communities.

The aim of the Big Energy Challenge is to help the social entrepreneurs to grow their ventures. The fund has been established by Ignite Social Enterprise, a social investment fund backed by Centrica plc, which is focused on energy-related businesses and enterprises. The Challenge will provide 10 energy social entrepreneurs with an individual package of support and the potential for funding of a minimum £50,000 to grow the social impact they create.

Ignite is seeking new ways to tackle the energy-related challenges the UK faces, and to have a better social impact. The profits from Ignite’s investments will be reinvested and recycled back to help more social enterprises and ventures grow and scale up their work.

Applications open today for the programme, with applications closing at the end of February 2014. 20 finalists will then be selected to an event in April to pitch their business to a panel of experts, before the 10 successful entrepreneurs are announced in April 2014.

The Big Energy Challenge is being run by Ignite in collaboration with our Wayra. Wayra is a technology-focused accelerator programme providing support to companies in the digital space. In collaboration, these two partners will provide investment, support, connections and expert advice to help the successful energy businesses with up to three winning a place at the Wayra Academy in London.

“I believe that the answers to our energy challenges do not solely lie with the private sector or the public sector, but with social entrepreneurs, in communities, and in cross-sector partnerships, Ignite will help find and grow some of the organisations with those answers” Sam Laidlaw Centrica, CEO.

Simon Devonshire, Director Wayra Europe: “We are delighted to be working with Centrica to make a difference to businesses within the energy sector who are pioneering sustainable and social change.  Wayra has vast expertise and knowledge from accelerating start-ups around the world. Wayra also has significant experience in Social Venturing via the WayraUnLtd academy in London, a partnership part funded by the UK Government’s Social Incubation Fund. This is Wayra’s first major partnership with another big corporate brand – I am especially passionate about the power of acceleration for start-ups coming from a partnership of one of the world’s biggest telco’s combined with one of the world’s biggest energy companies. We greatly look forward to working closely with Centrica on both the selection of the successful teams, and their subsequent acceleration.

Ignite is investing time, money and support into energy-related social enterprises, and is aiming to invest a minimum £10m over 10 years with investments ranging between £50,000 and £2m. Its first investment is of £500,000 into a social enterprise called Midlands Together CIC, which creates full-time jobs for ex-offenders and long-term unemployed. It does this by buying empty or sub-standard properties and then training and employing ex-offenders in all aspects of repair, refurbishment and restoration. The properties are then sold, with any profits being reinvested into helping more people get into work.

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