Innovation procurement can deliver solutions to challenges of public interest, presenting businesses with opportunities through innovative product response. Future Planet innovation procurement expert, Mary Ryan, provides an overview of the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project, offering valuable first-hand insight.
Through her involvement in Procurement Transformation Institute (PTI), Mary has had the pleasure of collaborating on the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project. The project aims to facilitate the procurement of goods and services by strengthening links between public buyers on the demand side, and innovative businesses on the supply side. Public buyers are assisted with identifying their needs and are connected with businesses able to develop innovative solutions providing for their requirements. The project provides increased opportunities for businesses, with guidance provided on public authority needs to bid for tenders.
The project is EU funded, where five regional schemes are being piloted in Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Andalusia (Spain). The project will finally operate at European level, facilitating the connection of public buyers and suppliers of innovation.
Mary explains that “working with such a diverse group of professionals was very rewarding. All participants brought expertise and experience from their own organisations and countries. PTI is a relatively new organisation in Ireland, and through our collaboration in European projects (Innovation Procurement Brokers, Procure 2 Innovate) we can learn so much from our European counterparts.”
Innovation Culture and Sustainability: Sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Mary highlights that encouraging an innovation culture is crucial. “It is important for public buyers to look beyond existing frameworks to fit for purpose, innovative goods, that can offer benefits and improvements on what is currently available. Buyers involved in the Innovation Procurement Brokers project, are searching for an innovative solution as a replacement for an existing or new need. In Ireland, a need was identified for sustainable PPE workwear. This encouraged suppliers to think about innovation and provide sustainable solutions.
She continues to explain that, while there are many drivers for innovation, sustainability has become a topic of huge interest. “While interest is building in more sustainable products, buyers in the market have not yet driven the need for suppliers to provide more sustainable product solutions. In the private sector, distributors and agents are beginning to look for innovative products from manufacturers to better match sustainability requests from their end users.”
In many cases, an alternative solution for PPE products is already available on European markets. Sustainable clothing and equipment are something relatively new, and alternative solutions are being developed and evolving as the demand from the public and private sector is increasing. There are many examples of such innovation procurement solutions. For example, Denmark is looking at sustainable clothing for hospitals and public procurers in Belgium have written a guide for public purchasers to help them to source socially responsible work wear. As momentum grows in the area of circular and sustainable economies, the opportunities for manufacturers and suppliers to supply innovative solutions are growing.
Sourcing Sustainable PPE Suppliers
PTI undertook a number of research techniques to determine the best approach to source suppliers for the need identified by Irish buyers of PPE equipment. Mary explains that “we firstly held workshops to establish what the need and requirements were. I then conducted desk research on suppliers of PPE workwear in Ireland and attended supplier trade events.”
Mary outlines how the PTI researched recyclable options which can be applied to PPE at the end of its lifecycle. “Participants in the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project are keen to see improved product sustainability and performance. Through their search for a more sustainable solution, the public authority buyers hope to source products that will reduce carbon footprints in logistics and manufacturing. Furthermore, establishing a system which facilitates repair and recycling of products at the end of life and work towards a more sustainable solution. These measures will help to reduce waste and dependence on unsustainable resources.”
She explains that one challenge encountered was that the level of contamination at the end of life of some PPE products may not allow for them to be recycled, “however buyers are keen to understand all of the information available from the market and learn from the proposed solutions.” Mary details how she has encountered industries in the private sector who have shown great interest in recyclable PPE products.
Mary tells us that “the whole area of sustainability and circularity is a fascinating one. I developed a great understanding of these concepts and the challenges manufacturers face when developing a sustainable yet disposable product.
- Innovation procurement brokerage can provide increased opportunities for businesses to bid for tenders where they have solutions to public needs.
- Public authorities benefit from being connected with potential providers in the market and have access to new product innovations.
- By offering sustainable solutions to public problems, all stakeholders, including the environment, can experience value and success.
How to Learn More:
The Catalogue of Best Practices was published by the Innovation Procurement Brokers. This shows different approaches taken by partners and what was successful for them; very valuable learning for other buyers.
PTI promotes innovative solutions and is working to increase knowledge and skills in Innovation Procurement. PTI aims to improve competitiveness and the innovative mindset of Irish organisations in Europe. Please find more information here.