10 November 2008
The UK's seven research councils are expected to save more than £400 million by 2018 after centralising their purchasing.
A new shared services centre aims to restructure the procurement operations of the councils over the next year. The project, which is the largest public sector centralisation in Europe, will also double the number of buyers working for the councils to more than 60.
The project will be completed by the end of 2009 and is led by commercial director Nicola Dunne. Consultant David Eakin, who is advising on the project, said the supply base will be rationalised where goods and services overlap. He added Dunne intends to bring in senior category buyers with strong management skills. "From a procurement perspective there has been little harmony between the research councils. This project represents a radical change for procurement not just at the research councils but also for the public sector," he said.
The institutes are independently run and invest £2.8 billion each year researching topics such as the environment. Together they have an annual spend of up to £600 million and are involved in purchasing equipment including supplies for researchers in Antarctica. The UK's Seven Research Councils include:
The Arts and Humanities Research Council
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
The Economic and Social Research Council
The Medical Research Council
The Natural Environment Research Council
The Science and Technology Facilities Council