Good Practice
Public Sector Procurement – Why Buy Innovation?

The Procurement of Innovation Platform (PPI) is an online space designed for all procurers to share opinion, network, read news and get help with all public procurement activity. And it is really growing in membership and content. Its awards are a way to recognise and encourage successful public procurement practices that have been used to purchase innovative, more effective and efficient products or services – but more on that to come.

The PPI promotes the importance of the “public procurement of sustainable and innovative goods and services as one of the essential tools for stimulating new technological or service solutions while helping to create jobs and boost the competitiveness of European industry and SMEs.” It is there to help public authorities to achieve more efficient and effective public services, solutions that reduce environmental impacts and be socially responsible.

And it leans heavily on innovation as the core to achieving this. Innovation is not just a recent buzzword – it is being taken seriously by many European authorities and businesses, as the entries for this year’s award will show. There have been many successful projects undertaken, often funded by the EC, and they are at the forefront of innovation procurement in the European Union. Examples include: City of Hamburg, Germany, which set a goal to recycle 100% of all material when resurfacing and refurbishing roads in a bid to save money, here, and Cambridge City Council, UK, which completely refitted its Grand Arcade Annex car park with award-winning LED lighting to help save energy by 75% and lower carbon emissions, here.

PPI has published a Guidance for Public Authorities on Public Procurement of Innovation –an easy-to-understand handbook for any public authority on how to procure innovation. The guide provides:

  • An introduction to PPI in practice
  • Practical information on how to procure innovation
  • Guidance on developing a strategy for PPI
  • Explanations of procedures, definitions and answers to common questions
  • Case studies and useful resources for further reading

The guide also goes into why procurement of innovation is not taking place across Europe on a large scale? There has been some action, but we can’t help feeling that this is still a subject where there is a lot more talking than real action.

Might it be down to the “lack of incentives, or the wrong incentives for buying innovative solutions from a new company rather than buying established products from long-standing suppliers (risk-aversion).”  And why should that be?

Anyway, the guide is based on the 2014 EU procurement directives and is ideal for all stakeholders involved in PPI, those starting out and those looking to improve their current procurement activities in terms of helping to drive innovation in the supply market. It is aimed primarily at those who are responsible for planning and executing procurement procedures (procurers) and offers detailed information about the ‘why, what and how’ of PPI.

Getting back to the 2015 Public Procurement of Innovation Awards – the ceremony will be held later this year and we will be following entries to find out who the winner is in the Autumn, and we’ll give a little more depth on each on the shortlisted entries. Maybe the Guidance booklet will inspire you to think about entries for next year.