CHARITIES and social entrepreneurs are being given the chance to win a slice of a £115,000 prize fund.

The Morgan Foundation Entrepreneur Awards 2012 have just been launched and offer more opportunities than ever to win one of 19 cash prizes in seven different categories.

As well as winning a valuable injection of capital into their ventures, award winners will gain access to a range of professional services to help them grow.

There’s a brand new category for ‘Best Individual Entrepreneur working in a Social Enterprise or Charity’ and other categories have been honed to distinguish between those enterprises making the best social contribution and those which are having an economic impact in the region.

North west businessman Steve Morgan OBE, founder and chairman of Redrow and chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, said: “In the past it’s sometimes proved difficult to compare organisations that are making either a social or economic contribution, so this year we have decided to reward both.

“We already recognise the Best New Business and the Best Young Entrepreneur under 25. Now we have introduced a new category for entrepreneurs working in the non-profit sector.

“These changes are very much in keeping with The Morgan Foundation’s ethos of making a difference to people’s lives.

“The benefits of winning one of these awards are far reaching – including a much needed capital injection, professional help and advice and the boost to staff morale.”

Among those who know what a difference winning a Morgan Foundation Entrepreneur Award can make is Easy MCS, in Saltney, Chester, winner of last year’s ‘Best New Business’ award.

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) support specialists and renewable training providers and has invested their £20,000 prize in a purpose built, outdoor training academy, where heating engineers, electrical contractors and building contractors are taught how to install the latest micro-generation technologies used to produce electricity and heat from renewable sources, including solar panels and heat pumps. Steve Morgan will officially open the new academy this summer.

Thomas Farquhar, of Easy MCS – himself a runner up in the ‘Young Entrepreneur’ category last year – said: “Winning the award was a major boost for our business. We already had plans to develop our training academy but the cash prize allowed us to get it up and running much more quickly than we envisaged. We’re providing in-situ training, distance learning and mentoring to tradesmen from all over the country.”

Last year’s winner of the ‘Best Young Entrepreneur’ title was 22-year-old Simon Roberts. His social enterprise venture, Roberts Recycling, on Knowsley Industrial Park, in Kirkby, Liverpool, diverts unwanted clothes and other items from landfill, and also offers employment and training.

Simon said: “Winning has made a massive difference to myself and my business. Not only have I gained some fantastic free publicity but also recognition from within the industry.

“The confidence I gained from the award itself has also been immense and has acted almost as a platform for me to build on and take the business to the next level.”

The awards are free to enter.

A panel of independent business leaders and experts will select the finalists, who will then present in person at the final judging in October. Winners and runners-up will be announced at a Gala Awards Dinner at Carden Park Hotel, near Chester on Thursday, November 15.

Closing date, September 7.

Entrants must be based in Merseyside, Cheshire, Shropshire, North Wales and the Wolverhampton area.