The UK is not that bad (says our new international guest writer)

Toni Saraiva is the man for whom the term 'cosmopolitan' was invented. Of Portuguese parents, brought up in France, studied in France and Scotland, has a Latvian fiancee and now works in England (but travels a lot) for EISC, who help small firms in particular understand the wonders of EU procurement and how to bid for contracts. He is also, I'm delighted to say, our latest guest writer and he will be writing about procurement issues from his very European perspective.

I should know, I do not feel homesick at all. Actually I very often feel lucky to be on this side of the English Channel…In terms of procurement the UK is a shining light in more areas than one compared to the other European Union Countries. (Editor's note - good heavens!)

The latest inspirational activity deals with helping procurers in buying innovative products and services. Public procurement is not conducive to risk taking and new products, i.e. unproven and not necessarily understood ideas could have a hard time being discovered by procurers if the products are not market established.

Copying the Americans ( I will not use De Gaulle’s Trojan Horse expression here but it could be fitting…) the UK has established something called the Small Business Research Initiative.

The US version is actually called the Small Business Innovation Research , a subtle difference. Was the word 'Innovation' too scary or just not meaning that much and so many things at the same time in Europe?

Well, the UK version has been facilitating the job of some public sector organisations in their search for new solutions to their problems. In the last 2 years, 56 tenders have been awarded through the work of the SBRI and they range from procuring mobile phone applications to products to address the causes of strokes through to new armour and protection for the MOD.

The European Commission is interested in what is developing in the UK and many in Brussels think that an SBRI type organisation could help drive the take-up of innovative products by the public sector. Why is it important? Well, in the long term to save money to the tax payer, with better, more appropriate devices, but also to encourage innovation and have the EU catch-up on the US and Japan.

So, baby SBRI’s could pop up around the EU in the not too distant future. There are plenty of ideas swarming around in Brussels on the theme of how to make innovation take off in the EU and quite a few of these are through the use of procurement. We will cover some of the other plans in future contributions.

For now, maybe you could share in your comments how you manage to buy new products, or how you think innovation could be encouraged through procurement…

Until next time…

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