Innovation through Collaboration

Scottish Enterprise Staff Pic Peter DevlinSuzanne Orchard, specialist advisor at Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), talks about the link between innovation and collaboration.

We know that innovation plays a critical part in business growth, but often we hear that businesses are putting off investing in innovation as they are concerned about the risks involved, particularly the resource and the finance required. However collaborating with other like-minded businesses can be a great solution as it provides the opportunity to share those risks. Collaboration not only addresses barriers but also creates an environment where innovation can thrive, allowing businesses to explore new opportunities by bringing together their experience and expertise.

A consortium co-operative is a highly effective way to facilitate collaboration. A consortium is made up of businesses that come together for a shared purpose, for example, marketing, tendering, innovating or exporting, whilst retaining their own brand identity, independence and control. It is run in a shared and equal way by all of its members, with the aim of achieving a common objective.

It could be that your business already collaborates with others on an informal level for the purposes of pooling skill sets or increasing tender opportunities, but by formalising this arrangement the benefits to all parties can vastly increase. By acting as part of an official consortium, you can access opportunities that may not be open to you individually whilst gaining competitive advantage through increased economies of scale.

One key outcome for consortiums is innovation. Innovation and collaboration feed and build upon each other and when businesses combine expertise, the potential risks behind exploring new and exciting opportunities are reduced. The facts speak for themselves; more that a third of consortium co-operatives develop new products within the first three years.

At CDS, we provide free support to any group of businesses considering setting up a collaborative consortium, offering specialist advice to help them adopt the model and guiding them through the key steps, including how to structure the consortium.

The winner of the Co-operative Development Scotland Collaboration Prize 2015, Kettle of Fish, is the perfect example of collaboration being the catalyst for innovation.

The team of award winning creative studios and individuals from across Scotland has come together to create a series of interactive stories for children. By inviting script writers to create unique and highly creative content for an app, the consortium plans to showcase talent from illustrators, animators and designers and create an open platform that offers real opportunities for graduates to learn from industry experts. This is a pioneering approach to helping their individual businesses and careers grow whilst exploring new technologies, story ideas and creative techniques. The nurturing environment of the consortium will provide further opportunities for the businesses to continue pushing boundaries, helping put Scotland firmly on the map as the creative hub of Europe.

It is encouraging to see a group of such talented businesses collaborate together for a common goal, and the upcoming Venturefest Scotland event in September 2016 will present the perfect opportunity for other ambitious businesses, entrepreneurs, investors and innovators to connect with each other and explore potential collaborations.

For more information on the services provided by CDS, visit

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