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Expert group details how public procurement can drive ICT innovation

National administrations should invest more in innovative products and services that require further research on their underlying information and communication technology (ICT), according to a Commission expert group report on how public procurement can drive research and inno...
Expert group details how public procurement can drive ICT innovation
National administrations should invest more in innovative products and services that require further research on their underlying information and communication technology (ICT), according to a Commission expert group report on how public procurement can drive research and innovation.

The group, composed of ICT experts from national authorities and chaired by the Commission, says that national administrations should come together to buy novel services and products in order to share the risks and benefits with the providers themselves. This is in contrast to the established model of public procurement which seeks to minimise risk and maximise benefit to the buyer.

By adopting such an approach, Europe would stimulate significant innovation, increase investment in and take-up of related R&D, and at the same time reduce risks by a pooling of resources, believes the expert group. The US and certain countries in Asia are already procuring pre-commercial products and services in line with World Trade Organization rules, the report adds.

'Europe must create a commercial environment that encourages more rapid innovation and take up of research results,' according to Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. 'The public sector has massive buying power, but it needs the right incentives to share the risks as well as the benefits of investing in new technologies and services.' The report suggests that the Commission should consider using the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) or other relevant instruments in order to create such incentives.

One possible model for pre-commercial public procurement is examined in the report, based on a three stage process similar to that employed in the US and Asian economies. 'The first step is a solution exploration phase, followed by a prototyping phase and finally a test series. In the first phase some six to seven offers could be selected, the number of suppliers being reduced after each step subsequent to evaluations. In the final step at least two contractors should remain in order to ensure a future competitive market,' it says.

The next step will be to explore opportunities for joint actions in domains such as health, transport, security and government with those directly responsible for public procurement, particularly within national authorities. The expert group would also like to see the Commission provide guidance on best practice in pre-commercial public procurement, and investigate whether further legal guidelines are required to facilitate its uptake.

The report's findings are based on interviews with Member State representatives on the current state of play regarding pre-commercial public procurement in all 25 EU countries.

Source: European Commission
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