Prime minister Theresa May said government could to help drive innovative procurement, particularly from small businesses ©CBI
Prime minister Theresa May said government could to help drive innovative procurement, particularly from small businesses ©CBI

Review into innovation to look at government procurement

21 November 2016

The government is to look at how its own procurement can be used to drive innovation in small businesses, the prime minister has said.

This will be part of a review into the Small Businesses Research Initiative (SBRI), announced by prime minister Theresa May in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday morning. 

May said the UK could follow the example of the US government in its use of strategic procurement to drive innovation in small businesses, that “not only spurs innovation in the public sector, [but] gives new firms a foot in the door”.

She added: “In fact many of the technologies in your smartphone, from touchscreens to voice recognition, were originally commissioned not by Apple or Microsoft, but by the US government.”

SBRI is an ongoing initative that helps innovative small businesses win a greater share of government contracts. May said the review would look at how they could “increase its impact and give more innovators their first break”. 

The review will be lead by David Connell, an entrepreneur and researcher at Cambridge University.

In her speech to the CBI, May also announced a consultation into the government’s new industrial strategy, and a $2bn per year increase in funding for science and technology research and development.

Commenting on the annoucement, David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said the US government’s approach to procurement makes sense, with a dedicated office to provide overall procurement direction and support to SMEs.

“This office has a high level of support, as the administrator is appointed by the President, so there is a mandate and a commitment to become more efficient and effective and trust the value procurement brings,” he said.

“Many of today’s global conglomerates started as small businesses that need the lifeblood of financing and in turn offer innovative and creative solutions that benefit us all. It’s an ambition for both I would like to see realised,” Noble added.

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