15 December 2005 | Anusha Bradley
Public-sector purchasing practice is being investigated after a study found it holds back innovation.
The Confederation of British Industry told it planned to probe further after a survey it conducted with Qinetiq found government held up innovation by failing to adopt ideas early.
Eleven universities and 163 firms were quizzed for the study, in which 69 per cent of respondents said lack of purchasing skills were a "major problem" for innovation. The government's difficulty in identifying problems and finding solutions was raised by 64 per cent of participants.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Transport (DfT), Ministry of Defence, and departments of health, trade, education and constitutional affairs were highlighted as the organisations respondents did most business with.
While the report said no department fared particularly well, DfT and DCMS were "significantly worse than average".
Tim Bradshaw, CBI's senior policy adviser for technology and innovation, told SM: "Anecdotal evidence shows people in procurement are focused on short-term cost issues, rather than long-term innovation."
He said despite high-level commitment to the idea, those buying goods and services at a local authority or departmental level aren't considering innovation.
A DCMS spokesman said it would review the report, published at the end of November, and look closely at its conclusions.
An Office of Government Commerce spokesman said it was "working closely" with the Department of Trade and Industry, which is responsible for government innovation policy.
He said a number of initiatives were underway including a pilot "ideas portal". Firms, inventors and researchers can use it to submit unsolicited proposals which the public sector can view and match to problems or demand.