Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) helped create 30 new businesses in 2010/11- its busiest year to date.
The Scottish Enterprise subsidiary surpassed its broad target of 15 to 20 start-ups as growing interest in collaboration fuelled demand for its advisory services.
Eighteen of the new companies are consortium co-operatives - groups of businesses who can achieve economies of scale, marketing and procurement efficiencies by pooling their skills and resources.
They include Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance, a consortium of local businesses set up to boost tourism to Mid Argyll, currently with 30 members; Interactive Learning Plus, a University of Strathclyde start-up involving four businesses that have developed virtual and interactive products to teach English as a foreign language; Ayr Independent Shops and Retailers, a consortium of 31 independent retailers in Ayr and Wholesome Whole Foods Scotland, a co-operative of local food producers and processors from Aberdeenshire, Angus and Tayside.
Jim Maxwell, Business Development Manager at CDS, said: "The consortium co-operative model has had a very good response in Scotland because it allows ambitious businesses to achieve instant scale without all the risks associated with organic growth. It allows independent businesses to access bigger and better contracts and to lower their input costs. These intrinsic benefits are driving our success."
CDS is also working with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop 15 high-level consortia across Scotland's food and drink, tourism, renewable energy, forestry, textile and creative industries. The aim is to boost the economic impact of priority growth sectors by encouraging companies to collaborate at an early stage. The projects are still under wraps but include a consortium of textile designers, regional groups of biomass providers and a number of local food and drink consortia.
Successes during the year also include supporting the employee buyout of Galloway & MacLeod, the 138-year-old agricultural supplier. Several new EBOs are expected to complete in the year ahead.
In its annual client survey, 80% of respondents said the advice they had received from CDS had made a significant or high difference, while 93% said they would recommend CDS to others. The speed and quality of service was rated excellent or very good by 86% of respondents.
"It's been a great year for CDS," said CDS Chief Executive Sarah Deas. "The volume and quality of enquiries has markedly increased as we've grown awareness and strengthened links with key partners and influencers, including accountancy and legal firms. It's good news for Scotland, because wider collaboration and co-ownership will help build a more sustainable, productive and competitive economy."
Find out more at the Co-operative Development Scotland website.