Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI) has long been seen as a means of stimulating innovation. But there remains a gap between the aspiration and the adoption and implementation of innovative goods and services in the public sector.
How we can bridge that gap nationally in the light of the forthcoming National Innovation Plan, and more locally with the devolution of powers to Greater Manchester, was the subject of the second Manchester Symposium on Science and Innovation Policy at the University organised by the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), to help drive engagement between academics, policy makers and key stakeholders.
Chaired by the University’s Vice-President for Research and Innovation Prof Luke Georghiou, and Keith Hodgkinson, the Director of Innovation Policy at BIS, the discussion was wide ranging, considering the challenges and opportunities facing both public sector customers and suppliers.
Prof Jakob Edler, Executive Director of the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, introduced the context for PPI, drawing on a bulk of research done at the Institute in recent years and describing it as a lynchpin of demand side innovation policy. Stuart Barthropp from BIS and Stephen Browning from Innovate UK laid out in more detail the current support mechanisms available to encourage PPI, including the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) and Innovation Partnerships.
Paul Maynard from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Procurement Hub highlighted the approach to procurement across Greater Manchester, emphasising that the two themes of devolution – growth and ‘doing things differently’ – were driving local procurement to seek out increasingly innovative solutions. One example was increased weighting for social value in all Greater Manchester contracts.
Phil Cusack, Chair of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Colin Cram, Executive Director of Marc1, discussed the challenges around current procurement processes. The cost of bidding for contracts, compliance with tender conditions, and overly-bureaucratic rules were all major – often insurmountable – hurdles for SMEs to jump when competing for public procurement. The poor rate of adoption of innovative products and services was a further disincentive for such companies to engage.
These challenges are very much in the sights of procurement practitioners, government and funders. As Professor Georghiou added: “The National Innovation Plan, devolution in Manchester, and, to a certain extent, recent and forthcoming cuts to public budgets, provide an opportunity to redesign procurement systems so that they overcome some of these barriers to innovation.”
The Institute will build on these discussions across a number of research activities, including an Alliance Manchester Business School project on the governance of infrastructure procurement projects across city regional spaces.
For further details on the Institute’s work on the public procurement of innovation, or on the next Manchester Symposium on Science and Innovation Policy in autumn this year, contact Laura Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org).