A few months ago the Austrian Institute of Technology released a policy brief outlining the progress made on the country’s 2012 “Public Procurement Promoting Innovation (PPPI)” action plan. The brief says that the plan’s implementation has been positively received by the procurement community so far, and gives recommendations for the next phase of the plan.
Promoting procurement of innovation has become one of the EU’s objectives in recent years, and is part of its “Europe 2020” strategy. However, it is also a key goal on a national level and was included in Austria’s “RTI Strategy”.
Austria’s PPPI Action Plan has been developed on the basis of a stakeholder process involving relevant members of the Austrian procurement community. The government has also mandated the plan’s implementation.
The plan aims to boost innovation-demanding public procurement, thus stimulating industry and allowing public authorities to deliver better services. It is split into four dimensions:
- Strategic — which involves political commitment to introducing innovation-related procurement plans in public authorities and dedication of budgets
- Operative — such as establishment of PPPI service centres to provide support and give incentive for innovation procurement
- Legislative — measures including amending procurement law to incorporate innovation as an explicit issue
- Impact — which involves establishing innovation procurement monitoring and benchmark systems
Austria’s “smart procurement policy mix” was also mentioned as a continued method of improving the nation’s procurement environment. The mix consists of the PPPI Action Plan, the Action Plan for Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) and the Fair Public Procurement Initiative (FPP), all of which aim to complement each other.
The brief says that the PPPI Action Plan has already brought about the introduction of innovation-related procurement plans in public bodies and started awareness activities. An example of where innovation has already been integrated into an existing programme is Transport Infrastructure Research programme.
A PPPI Service Centre was also established in 2013, and offers services such as e-platforms, consulting, training, awareness activities and event organisation. It has been welcomed by Austria’s procurement community so far, and there are commitments in place to set up PPPI “competence centres” across a number of different sectors.
Austria amended its procurement law to successfully include innovation as an explicit issue. Lastly, a comprehensive evaluation of the PPPI Action Plan has been scheduled for 2016, and development of a monitoring system began this year.
Recommendations have been made on how the remainder of the plan should be implemented. This primarily involves a “renewed commitment” to PPPI by starting a political discussion about innovation procurement plans, budgets and targets. The brief points to similar commitments made by France and Spain, as well as the US SBIR programme, as role models for Austria’s PPPI Action Plan. These programmes typically allocate a percentage of public body budgets towards innovation procurement, and aim to increase this year on year. However, the PPPI Action Plan does not specify a quantified target – or a percentage of a procurement budget dedicated to innovation. While the brief’s recommendations don’t mention setting a specific target, this could be one area for improvement.
Finally, the brief gives a recommendation on how the PPPI Action Plan may be embedded within the “smart procurement policy mix.” Feedback from public entities shows that they are often overwhelmed by the multiple requirements of green public procurement, innovation procurement and fair procurement. The brief suggests that these three aspects should be implemented as far as possible through providing collaborative events, guides, trainings and services when required. It says a long-term goal should be to completely unify Austria’s procurement policy.