Public procurement 'Dragons' Den' highlights innovation

20 July 2011

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20 July 2011 | Adam Leach

Public sector procurement must enter a “new world” that takes full advantage of the innovative solutions available from small and medium enterprises, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said.

Speaking yesterday at the Innovation Launch Pad Product Surgery event, Maude called on government buyers to search out the brightest and best products and services on offer in the marketplace, whether from large-scale contractors or small start-ups.

Maude said: “We as buyers need to be up-to-speed with the innovative solutions out there. There’s been good progress so far but not enough.”

Speaking to an audience of senior government procurement professionals, the minister called for an increased focus on what solutions were needed. “We need to be absolutely relentless across the public sector in specifying what we need – not how we get it,” he said. To the SME representatives in the audience he said: “Tell us if we’re procuring in the old way – that old world needs to go, we need a new world.”

Maude also demanded an increase in the speed of payments between contractors and sub-contractors. He will be asking government departments to check that all contractors pay sub-contractors within 30 days.

The event marked the conclusion of a competition to uncover some of the most innovative products available from SMEs, with nine companies given the chance to pitch to government buyers and a specially selected Dragons’ Den-style panel.

IT security firm Becrypt pitched a USB stick which applied a secure interface to any system it was plugged into, thus enabling employees to access government networks with any computer instead of requiring a specialist laptop. The pitch was the most popular of the day, with purchasers excited by the prospect of using laptops given to staff for other purposes. Becrypt is currently trialling the project with a London council and expects it will create savings of £450,000.

Also well received was the pitch from HotDocs. Its offering is a secure, collaborative programme for creating documents enabling Child Support Agency staff to work on the same case file at the same time without having to physically add pages to a folder. The programme is already being used by the Royal Bank of Scotland and is claimed to have reduced costs by as much as 90 per cent.

Meanwhile Cambridge Temperature Concepts (CTC) pitched its DuoFertility sensors, which, through data analysis, indicate when a woman is at her peak to conceive. CTC said the NHS would only have to pay £2,500 per pregnancy, which is cheaper than IVF treatment.

Appointments to discuss some of the pitches in more detail are now being arranged.


Cabinet Office Innovation Launch Pad finalists:

Becrypt: IT security firm offering secure operating system on a USB stick.

HotDocs: Software company providing collaborative document program.

HealthAnalytics: Analysing NHS data to identify patients in need of preventative treatment.

AdInfa: Energy management company, aiming to increase efficiency of government data centres.

CatN: Web-hosting company, looking to host government sites through cloud computing.

CambridgeTemperature Concepts: Using data analysis to identify peak time for women to conceive.

MyWorkSearch: Optimised search engine and job finding resources.

SoftwareEurope: Online expense forms and travel management software.

LearningPool: E-learning portal to provide training for the third sector.

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