People & Skills
Procurement of Innovation Awards – an Interview with one of the Judges

The procurement of innovation in goods and services is not just about R&D, but innovation in the design and delivery of public services, processes and models and the procurement of innovative solutions. This is what the Procurement of Innovation Award sets out to reward – encouraging procurers to adopt a more innovation-led approach to buying that will ultimately be for the good of the European community.

The award is part of the Procurement of Innovation Platform project, which helps public authorities and other stakeholders to understand and exploit the influence that innovation procurement can exert. It is supported by the European Commission, IWT (the agency for Innovation by Science and Technology, Flanders), the European Regional Environmental Center, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) and PIANOo (the tendering expertise centre Netherlands).

We recently highlighted the finalists for this year in Procurement of Innovation Award – Announces Nominees for 2015Federal Procurement Agency, Austria; Stockholm County Council (Karolinska University Hospital), Sweden; Galician Public Health Service, Spain; Consip – Central Purchasing Body, Italy and Rijkswaterstaat, The Netherlands. And we are looking forward to discovering which will be the winner, due to be revealed at the European Assistance for Innovation Procurement event in Paris, 27 & 28 October. So, before that happens, we were fortunate to be able to ask a few questions of one of the award judges, to find out how the criteria is set.

Wouter Stolwijk, is Director of PIANOo, the tendering expertise centre in the Netherlands, which, drawing from its large network of around 3,500 public procurement professionals and contracting authorities, pools knowledge to provide advice and foster dialogue between government contracting authorities and private-sector companies.

What do the awards aim to achieve?

The European award for the best innovation procurement is given to stimulate innovation procurement in Europe, and to identify good practice cases and support policymaking related to PPI and PCP. The consortium convenes an independent jury and facilitates the voting process. Jury members are representatives of the European Commission and members of the consortium.

Who is the award aimed at?

The award targets public and semi-public contracting authorities that have acted as a lead customer by procuring an ‘innovative’ solution that has newly arrived on the market but that is not yet available on large commercial scale due to a lack of market commitment to deploy. Only those innovative solutions of which the contract award notice has been published for at least 3 months at the time of application, and that commissioned the ‘innovative’ solution for at least three months, but not longer than two years at the time of application, are eligible.

What is the incentive to enter?

The winner will receive: an award for innovation procurement excellence, together with the title “European innovation procurement of the year;” a case study published on the Procurement of Innovation Platform; promotion by the Procurement of Innovation Platform Consortium and a paid exchange visit to a selected public authority.

How are the award criteria weighted?

The main award criteria are the impact of the procurement (max. 10 points), the degree to which procurement resulted in more efficient and effective public services (max. 10 points) and the extent to which the procurement process/tools are used to encourage and enable the procurement of an innovative product or service (max. 10 points). Secondary award criteria includes the extent to which different stakeholders were involved (max. 5 points), the replicability of the procurement and its potential to be scaled-up and used in a wider European context (max. 5 points), and the planned promotion of the lessons learned and the expected impact on public innovation procurement practice? (max. 5 points). The winner should score high on all three of the main criteria to win the award.

What are you looking for in the submissions?

Applicants must answer questions, succinctly, about the nature of the ‘innovative solution,’ the challenges this solution is addressing, and how the ‘innovative solution’ may be used across the EU. Suppliers must also answer questions about details of the procurement process and their experience working with the contracting authority.

Are there more entries from some countries than others?

The majority of the applicants come from the western/northern/southern European countries. This appears to follow the interest in the subject of innovation procurement in Europe.

Do you follow up with winners after the event?

Last year’s winner received additional promotion in the Netherlands (for example, they were invited to a meeting at the ministry of economic affairs). Other Dutch applicants were invited to present their procurements in national innovation procurement conferences as best practises. All PPI finalists were invited to last year’s EcoProcura conference to present their procurement process and the solution procured.

We are grateful to Wouter Stolwijk for giving us a greater insight into these awards and will be reporting shortly in more detail on the individual finalists and announcing the winner. In summing up, Wouter had this to say:

The PPI award is a good platform to show relevant stakeholders that the contracting authority is innovating and involving businesses to solve difficult societal challenges. The award might also be an instrument to inform the employees of contracting authorities about the importance – and benefits – of innovation procurement.