18 September 2006 | Paul Snell
Public-sector purchasers must become "intelligent customers" to help encourage innovation in Europe, the European Commission (EC) has said.
Last week the EC published a 10-point plan suggesting ways to encourage innovation across the continent to boost the economy. Procurement was covered in one of those 10 points.
The EC recommends public-sector purchasers join forces, exchange expertise and ideas and increase the size of orders to help foster innovation - thereby being "intelligent customers". It adds that if purchasers describe their needs in a broad, performance-based way, bidders can come up with innovate ideas instead of being constrained by detailed specifications.
This "pre-commercial" procurement process is used in the US, and allows purchasers to develop products where they do not currently exist. Both the Conservative Party (News, 24 August) and Centre for Business Research have recently suggested following the US model.
European leaders will meet in Finland on 20 October to discuss the proposals, which are a starting point for boosting innovation in Europe.
The EC is also preparing a handbook to raise awareness of "pre-commercial" procurement among purchasers. The guide will be released by the end of the year.