Innovation should be expected

16 July 2009
Our news story this week on the government's need to demand innovation from suppliers raises an important point. Shouldn't suppliers be innovative without being asked? In the week when a new series of Dragon's Den has started, the competitive advantage an innovative product has over a 'traditional' one is evident. And the future needs of corporations (for more energy efficient or more effectively packaged products) will be for more innovation. So why are suppliers (a wild generalisation, of course) not coming up with the goods more routinely? Playing it safe is far more attractive at a time of economic strife, so that could be one reason. The most common argument (put forward by suppliers, at least) is that tenders and specifications are too restrictive and don't allow vendors to either demonstrate what they can offer. Or if they do, the added cost, lead time or even radical nature of the product actually counts against them in the criteria. They want buyers to be more flexible in the process. A "traditional" buyer's response would be it's up to suppliers to work innovation into the requirements of the tender, and it shouldn't be the role of procurement to have to accommodate suppliers who can't meet the correct specifications at the right price. Until both sides can get out of this unproductive cycle, innovation will always lose out.
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