A new fund has been set up to try to bring more people into Birmingham's booming social enterprise sector.

The new free service is designed to get more people involved in businesses with social goals in Birmingham.

Social enterprises - not-for-profit businesses that work towards the community good and reinvest their profits - are thriving in Birmingham, with recent research suggesting there are more than 300 businesses in operation.

And Support agency I'SE was given nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to put towards training and support for social entrepreneurs in the city.

I'SE chief executive Sarah Crawley said the Lottery money could make a huge difference to a sector that is becoming more and more popular, but still suffers from a lack of recognition and support.

She said: "These extra resources mean that over the next two years or so anyone who is looking to grow or start a social enterprise in Birmingham will be able to get free, specialist support delivered locally - which we know is what people prefer."

And she added the free support service would also be helpful for people working in voluntary and social enterprise positions across a range of jobs the third sector, saying: "The social enterprise approach to trading and income generation is now being increasingly widely adopted in the voluntary sector."

"And so as well as assisting existing enterprises we'll also be targeting those that are newer to social enterprise - we'll help them refine their business models, get their costings right, and improve their contracting skills."

The support service will be open to all Birmingham residents who want to grow or start a social enterprise in Birmingham and is free of charge.

It will be run by a partnership made up of I'SE, Business in the Community, the Jericho Foundation and the Birmingham and Solihull Social Economy Consortium (BSSEC).

Alun Severn, the secretary of BSSEC, said: "This is great news for Birmingham's social enterprise sector. This service is something we have wanted to see in place for a long time and I'SE are to be congratulated for making it happen."

Recent research showed social enterprise was booming in Birmingham, with around 320 social enterprises trading, employing nearly 12,500 people.

Some of the largest have a turnover as much as £5 million a year, and around half turn over more than £100,000. But many social enterprises involve small operations, and promoting this sort of business has been targeted as a possible way to regenerate more deprived parts of the city.

The Community Network South West group has been looking into this. One possibility is a resident-run biofuel plant running on chip oil.