Regulaton & Policy
European Commission Conference – Innovative Public Procurement in Berlin

The European Commission Directorate for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs holds responsibility for public sector procurement.  Every year, the team holds a flagship conference during which participants discuss cutting-edge topics in the European Single Market, public procurement and related fields. Last year’s event was in Prague, and we reported on it here (and enjoyed it / found it interesting too!).

This year, the conference moves to Berlin, organised in cooperation with the German public authorities.  It will be devoted to the hot topic of “innovative public procurement” and it will take place on 26 October 2016 at the Swissôtel in the fine city. Here is how the organisers explain the choice of topic:

“This year we decided to build the conference agenda around the topic of innovative procurement, and the possible dynamic that public demand can play to stimulate innovation. The agenda will rely heavily on the role of innovation in inciting growth and investment in the EU, underpinned by the current reform of public procurement rules in the EU. It will include topics such as participation of SMEs in public procurement, evolution of the procurement process and demand-oriented innovation measures”.

Typically the event attracts around 300 participants from across the EU’s private and public sector, including many key stakeholders and policy makers from all over the EU. If last year is typical, there was a  mix of procurement practitioners, policy people, lawyers, a few supply side folk, and other campaigners (such as the brilliant Croatian anti-corruption campaigner, Munir Podumljak).  The conference will be opened by the deputy Director-General, Ms Irmfried Schwimann.

The relatively new 2014 procurement directives contained various measures to encourage “innovation procurement” – and there has certainly been more focus on this area in recent years. The topic has a number of somewhat different elements, and it is important to understand this. So doing procurement in an innovative manner is one aspect; but buying innovative goods and services is perhaps the broader application that also has more long-term potential  benefit for the European economy. We understand that the event in Berlin is going to look at both of these  topics.

And if you need any other encouragement to turn up, we’re delighted to say that Peter Smith, of Spend Matters and Public Spend Forum Europe, will be chairing a session devoted to simplifying the procurement process. That is perhaps not the ‘sexiest’ element within the overall innovation picture, but it is an important part of encouraging new and innovative firms to participate in public procurement exercises and tenders.

There will be a focus on the “once-only principle”,  highlighting the various dimensions of  introducing “once-only” in a Member State (legal, technological, institutional etc). Other panellists along with Peter  will include a representative of bidders /users, and a representative from Estonia – the country that is the EU leader in the implementation of OOP.

Yet another positive about the event is the cost – it’s free! Free to genuinely interested and relevant parties of course, but that includes any public procurement professional. However, the Commission does reserve the right to apply a quota of some sort by country if (for instance) 300 people from Luxembourg all decided they want to attend. That’s an incentive of course to get in quickly with your booking, if you are interested. You do have to pick up your own travel and accommodation costs, however – the Commission isn’t going to fund that, I’m afraid!

Applications close on September 25th and you will know by the end of September if you have a ticket. Hope to see some of you in Berlin.