Sector News
Public tender to procure innovation for elderly healthcare launched at European level

For the first time, a joint cross-border public tender in the healthcare sector has been launched at European level. Perhaps this will be the first of many?

HAPPI, or “Healthy Ageing Public Procurement of Innovations,” is a project aimed at providing innovative solutions to address the needs of an ageing population to “disseminate them in hospitals and nursing homes across Europe.” The project is financed by the European Commission and is made up of 12 partners, including healthcare central purchasing organisations, innovation and procurement experts, and academic institutions form France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Spain.

It aims to find innovative products and solutions in helping the elderly “age well” in key areas, namely: communication, care, mobility, eating, sleeping and personal hygiene. This may be in the form of services or equipment such as bedding for people with disabilities, customised eating equipment for those with disabilities, shower chairs, among others. However, hospitals and nursing homes are often constrained by cost when purchasing equipment, which is why procurement of innovative products and services is important.

Through this, HAPPI also aims to improve the working conditions of professionals in the healthcare sector. With the help of experts from the project’s partners, including geriatricians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, caregivers, professional assistants and other professionals, HAPPI will identify the innovation requirements of hospitals and residential care homes. A total of 142 innovations were submitted to the project’s online platform, mostly from SMEs, and reviewed by experts as part of a market survey in January.

The project has launched an invitation to tender, which opened on September 30th and will close on November 30th 2014. The tender is split into five categories – or ‘lots’ – of interest selected by project partners. These lots are fall detection and alert systems, treadmills for rehabilitation and analysis of walking disorders, walking courses for preventing falls and maintaining independence, bed thermoregulation systems, and chairs enabling users to maintain independence and reducing effort for aides.

Companies of any size from anywhere can participate in the tender, and specifications are provided in English, Italian and French. Bids can be made in those languages but application documents are only provided in French however as it is the Achat-hospital procurement platform which is used for the electronic tender. However, an English and Italian language ‘helpdesk’ is available to support bidders, particularly SMEs.

Another of the project’s goals is to encourage and support SMEs in the procurement process. HAPPI aims to build an “ageing well innovation centre” for SMEs, Group Purchasing Organisations and public authorities that want to participate in the project and in future projects. They will advise SMEs on sources of public finance to aid their innovation, and will prioritise SMEs in the EU. The project also wishes to increase the HAPPI consortium of partners to the 27 EU member states.

In the long term, HAPPI hopes to encourage a culture of gerontological innovation in order to enhance healthcare for the elderly. It will also aim to organise a procurement network for such innovation, and create a European platform for collaboration between purchasers and suppliers in the field. It will conduct a joint procurement of products and services worth at least €2.5 million, involving at least 240 health institutions and reaching more than 100,000 users.

With Europe facing the challenge of caring for an aging population, this is an area of huge interest to public procurement. (And to some members of the Spend Matters team, given their advancing age!)  EuroStat statistics show that in 2010, 19 percent of the EU27 population was aged 65 and above, but this is set to rise to approximately 24 percent by 2030. In decades to come, public authorities must consider how best to provide transport, social care and healthcare to the elderly. HAPPI aims to provide innovative solutions to these challenges, while also creating a SME-friendly network for public procurement.