Innovative Public Procurement – Berlin Conference Overview

Yesterday the European Commission held its fifth annual Innovative Public Procurement conference in the great city of Berlin - which was grey and drizzly throughout, not that we got much time for sightseeing. We will go into more detail on the key presentations over on our Public Spend Forum Europe (PSFE) website next week, but here are just a few of the headlines.

berlin3Starting with the social side of things, our picture above shows the speakers' dinner the previous evening in a pleasant and very busy restaurant. Talk about a small world - I was sitting next to a young Croatian who works for the Commission in the procurement area, and it turned out he had been studying for his masters at the same college in England and at the same time as my daughter (who was there doing her first degree). It was also a pleasure to meet Jonathan Cave, who was a member of the discussion panel I chaired - what an interesting guy, knowledgeable about everything from drugs policy to European procurement to chemistry!

berlin1The event was well attended, around 200 people, and it looked like around a third practitioners, a third policy people in some sense, including Commission staff, government policy makers, academics and lawyers, and a third private sector of various types. The event used the Slido app /  platform to collect questions from the audience and run polls - it worked very well technically, but some people felt it restricted real audience interaction. You miss the "can we get a microphone to the lady in the back row" moments! But it certainly allows you to capture questions and get poll feedback in an efficient manner while people are speaking.

There weren't many UK people there but I noticed one Crown Commercial Service name on the list and there were delegates from pretty much every European nation you could name. The first panel looked at "public procurement of innovation," and with four very different but interesting panellists, there was good content there that will certainly form a future PSFE article. One of the day's highlights.

Then we looked at innovative procurement ideas; such as "buying across borders" and the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD). The view on that - based on quite a few questions and comments - seemed to be that the jury is still out. Many people applaud the principle but have some concerns about the implementation - others don't like the principle, or think it will be too difficult to really make it work across all 28 nations. I chaired a panel discussion on the "once-only principle" - the ESPD is part of that broader picture  - and you will have to believe me when I say that is a more interesting subject than it perhaps sounds ...

berlin2It's always good to meet interesting new people (as above) but also old friends such as Miguel Sobral from Vortal and Sue Hurrell from Value Wales. She talked about the famous Welsh "SQuID" initiative and the "Squizard" - yes, a useful "wizard" to help users get the most out of SQuID!

I'm also pleased to say that nobody gave me a hard time about Brexit, although quite a few were curious to understand exactly how it had happened, or wanted to know what the feeling was now in the UK. So I guess I've got two or three more of these events to go before we stop getting the invitations. Anyway, a good and worthwhile event - well done also the Commission staff who put a lot of work into it, both the planning and on the day.



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