The benefits of the knowledge transfer between academics and CETS extend beyond the higher education sphere. In the medium to long term there is potential for very significant socio-economic impacts with the creation of more co-operative enterprises, the growth of the co-operative sector, and wider economic benefits that would accrue to more of Scotland's citizens.
A recent study by Professor Johnston Birchall at the University of Stirling (November 2009) attributed the higher rankings in terms of per capita income, global competitiveness and life expectancy found in Switzerland, Sweden and Finland (compared to the UK in general and Scotland in particular) to the much higher incidence of co-operative enterprises in these "Arc of Prosperity" countries.
Despite having solid historic claims to the first ever co-operative in the world, the current contribution to GDP in Scotland is less than 3% compared with 10 to 20% in the three comparators. An increase in the levels of co-operative enterprise in Scotland to 6% should therefore improve economic performance. For example, doubling the co-operative sector could add 3 billion pounds to Scottish GDP, assuming Scottish GDP at 100 billion pounds p.a. A year on year increase by 1% would add 30 billion pounds p.a.
There is an obvious displacement argument here but the co-operative difference means ownership and control and hence more income, profits and reserves will be retained in Scotland and will be more equitably distributed across the population.
An increase in the number of co-operative enterprises in Scotland would lead to an increase in member dividends paid. This was 6 million pounds in the financial year 2008/9 and would be expected to increase pro rata at 2 million pounds per annum in relation to the 1% year on year increase in the number of co-operative enterprises.
Research on Economic Impact of U.S. Cooperatives
The USDA has issued three rounds of funding (covering 2006 - 2011) to conduct research on the economic impact of cooperatives. The results of phase I of the Economic Impact of U.S. Cooperatives (REIC) study are now available.