Transport for London (TfL) has said it is working to improve the way it absorbs innovation from the supply chain.
David Wylie, CPO at TfL, told SM the organisation was becoming less prescriptive in its tender specifications to encourage more innovation from suppliers.
“The sort of suppliers we’re working with, they are innovative organisations and for us it’s about trying to create the conditions where that innovation lands within the organisation [TfL],” he said.
“We’re really trying to move that dial and say, ‘Actually we want some options and we want to be able to understand what are the risk and opportunities of those various options.’”
Wylie was speaking in response to an internal report, the TfL Voice of the Supplier Report, in which suppliers said TfL was reluctant to take risks with innovation, had burdensome tendering processes and dissuaded suppliers from presenting new ideas.
New Civil Engineer, which has seen a copy of the document, reported that suppliers praised TfL for good management and contractual practices, but criticised the organisation for its risk aversion and focus on cost.
Wylie told SM: “We’re really starting to talk about need. ‘Here’s the problem that we need solving, here’s the issue that we’ve got, how can you do it,’ rather than, ‘I want you to solve a particular problem in a particular way,’” he said, adding: “You can certainly see this in some of recent big deals we’ve done.”
TfL’s core priorities of safety, affordability and reliability also mean the organisation has to weigh up the risks of innovation carefully. “There are some real things that clearly we’re not prepared to take any risks on. Safety is such a big focus of the organisation,” said Wylie.
“But there may be other things where if the risks are small and the opportunities are great, then we might just weigh that up.”
Separately, TfL has launched its second supplier awards to recognise the contributions of its supply chain in running and improving transport. Nominations are open until 5 September and suppliers wishing to enter can do so via the TfL website.
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