UK government's innovative tech procurement ranked 'behind Rwanda'

8 September 2011

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8 September 2011 | Adam Leach

The UK government’s procurement of advanced technology has been rated 49th, despite being named 13th strongest for overall innovation.

The Global Competitiveness Report 2011/2012, published yesterday by the World Economic Forum, ranked the UK second for university-industry collaboration in R&D, third for the quality of its research institutions and 13th for its capacity for innovation. Yet it was ranked 49th for government procurement, one place behind France and 36 places behind Rwanda.

The survey, which ranked 142 countries across a number of categories, such as infrastructure, technological readiness and labour market efficiency, noted that Israel’s world-class capacity for innovation had been “supported by the government’s public procurement policies”.

The findings from the report concerning the UK echo those put forward in a June report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. It claimed that the current state of public sector procurement was “antithetical” to innovation and that government buyers were settling for “proven solutions” from “existing suppliers”.

The Lords report was conducted as a result of comments from Lord Sainsbury who, in response to a question about whether the Home Office should have a budget to develop innovation, said: “They are the customer, they have the problem, and they should be driving a programme of innovation.”

Since then, the Cabinet Office has taken action to promote the merits of innovative technology to public sector buyers.

Speaking at an event in July which gave SMEs the chance to pitch to an audience of government buyers, Cabinet Office Minister, Francis 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.”

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