13 February 2009 | Paul Snell
Many public sector buyers are not aware of the benefit of pre-commercial procurement and are not acting as "intelligent customers", according to the European Parliament.
Pre-commercial procurement allows purchasers to buy the development of innovative products, and lets them work more closely with suppliers. The European Commission (EC) authorised its use at the end of 2007 (Web news, 18 December 2007). The process is already being successfully used by the US public sector to develop biotechnology and nanotechnology.
The US spends more than $50 billion (£33.7 billion) a year on R&D procurement, compared to the ?2.5 billion (£2.1 billion) spent annually in the EU.
And MEPs are now calling on the EC to give purchasers more support in this area. A report, produced by Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour, was adopted by the parliament this month by 587 votes to 12.
"Public authorities spend vast sums on procuring outside services, but rather than just throwing new money at old ideas they can also encourage innovative solutions," said Harbour.
The report is demanding greater training for purchasers as well as the development of a handbook, which could provide practical examples of the process and how to follow current EU law. It also called on member states to identify in their own innovation policies problems that could be solved if technology were developed through a pre-commercial purchasing process.
It also raised the possibility the EC could provide financial incentives for authorities to collaborate on pre-commercial procurement to develop innovative ideas and products that would benefit the whole of the EU.