Accounting for about 17% of the EU’s GDP, public procurement constitutes a gigantic market with an enormous potential for supporting innovation. Two specifically interesting instruments are pre-commercial public procurement (PCP) and innovation deployment procurement. However, as opposed to the US and various other countries, the potential to foster innovation through public procurement remains largely untapped in Europe. A strategic approach is missing and public procurement objectives are mostly disconnected from higher-level public objectives. Other problems are difficulties for SMEs to participate in this market and the fragmentation of public procurement markets in Europe. The European Commission has recognised this situation in its Innovation Union proposal (action point 17) and in its Green Paper on the modernisation of EU public procurement and launched a public consultation on this matter (ending on 18 April). The K4I Dinner Debate on Public Procurement, with a focus on PCP and on innovation deployment procurement, discussed which measures are necessary in order to make public procurement across the EU more modern and innovation-friendly. More specifically, the questions were:

  • What have been the experiences in the EU so far and can we learn from the US and from various other forerunners (UK, NL)?
  • What is the best model to be deployed in the EU, and what is the best way to engage Member States?
  • How to set the right incentives for procurers?
  • How to facilitate SME access?
  • How to facilitate joint procurements by different procurers (incl. cross-border)?
  • What role can public procurement play in the context of innovation partnerships?

Antonio Fernando Correia de Campos:
"There are two main tools: A pre-commercial procurement, which is procurement of R&D services to develop innovative services, and innovative procurement, which is the deployment of already existing innovative technologies or know-how programmes."

Ulf Dahlsten:
“Collaboration between different institutional partners and the public and private sector is very important and it is about reinventing what used to be called ‘privileged partnerships’.”

“To be a winner it is not enough to put money on world class research but we need to put the results in the market. The winners are those that are first in the market.”

Bertrand Wert:
“We need to incentivise procurers to realise concrete procurement, besides their role in creating consortiums, which is very important.”

Heide Rühle:
“There is a full support for innovation and sustainability but in reality there is a lot of bureaucracy.”

“There is too much focus on how to procure rather then what to procure.”

“E-procurement is one of the best ways for simplifying procurement. We need a European framework on E-procurement.”

Sinan Tumer:
“In order to stimulate innovation in public procurement environment, the intellectual property must be retained by the suppliers; otherwise there will be no incentive.”

Marieke van Putten:
“We have many options in the European directive that have not been used.”

The introductions were followed by a discussion with the participants.