Sarah Deas: Collaboration delivers sustainable growth

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WITH the UK and Scottish economies still struggling, businesses need some fresh thinking when it comes to boosting sales.

So, today’s launch of a £40,000 award for Scottish firms, in the shape of the 2013 Collaboration Prize, is designed to reward such innovation. Up for grabs is £10,000 worth of support for four Scottish companies to set up consortium co-operatives.

Enterprise minister Fergus Ewing recognises the prize will encourage home-grown talent to think about working together to succeed on the world stage.

Last year was our first year, and we’ve added an extra £10,000 of funding for 2013.

The prize will also seek out winners from the of food and drink, creative industries and tourism sectors – areas in which Scottish innovation thrives. That’s why we are in partnership with Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance and Creative Scotland.

Consortium co-operatives allow a number of companies to pool their resources and bid for bigger contracts, while retaining their independence. They may also undertake shared buying or marketing. Recent research indicates that 88 per cent of consortium members have developed new business relations as a result of working together. As well as bottom-line benefits, there are the intangible benefits of working with others: peer support, influence and confidence.

Collaboration can also help Scotland’s many SMEs (small and medium enterprises), which account for 99.3 per cent of all private sector enterprises, compete in export markets.

A good example is one of last year’s winners Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland (McOpera), which brings together members of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera to explore new markets for classical music at home and abroad.

The time for collaboration has come. Google Android, for example, lets innovative start-ups collaborate on new apps, stimulating new phone sales.

There are 578 co-operative businesses in Scotland with a combined turnover of more than £4 billion and employing 28,600 people. Our prize will help grow that number, which will in turn deliver sustainable economic growth.

• Sarah Deas is chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland, a subsidiary of Scottish Enterprise