Monday, 28 January 2013

Grasping the national opportunity for Procurement

Last week saw the publication of the Policy Exchange's 'Eight Great Technologies', authored by David Willets (Minister for Universities and Science). He sets out eight areas where the UK could become a world leader - eight areas for growth - eight areas which form the nucleus of a UK Industrial Strategy, namely:
  • the big data revolution and energy-efficient computing;
  • satellites and commercial applications of space;
  • robotics and autonomous systems;
  • life sciences, genomics and synthetic biology;
  • regenerative medicine;
  • agri-science;
  • advanced materials and nano-technology; and
  • energy and its storage.
Will this gain sufficient cross-party political ownership to provide resilience through the next electoral cycle?

Regardless, this provides an opportunity for procurement to make a significant contribution to the UKs economic recovery and Industrial Strategy. The section we're interested in is the Conclusion - for us, not the conclusion but a manifesto/prospectus.

The suggestion is that a leadership council is established - a MInisterial led top table with major public procurers having a seat at the table along with researchers, businesses, and regulators. Given Jon Hughes and Colin Cram's recent evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee it is hard to visualise who in the public procurement world would have the credibility to sit at the table.

The leadership council have a pow-wow and hopefully articulate the five-year potential future for the eight areas, including potential demand. They develop a means for reliable clarity of future procurement intentions. That foundation aims to incentivise businesses to invest in the UK to maximise the potential opportunities, potentially through forward commitments or up-front investment, and critically, develop trust.

I have serious doubts about the likely effectiveness of what looks like a too lassie faire approach. There are echoes of what has been tried before with a national sustainable procurement strategy and various aspirations for addressing innovation through procurement. The lack of a meaningful change management plan, meaningful performance management and credibility in the government's management of the economy won't help. However, this still represents the best so far in terms of a plan is concerned.

It is also a potential opportunity and we need to make sure the opportunity does not pass us by. As a profession we could demonstrate ownership and seize the initiative, but to do that I would suggest:
  1. Support the and champion the concept;
  2. Do all in our power to ensure procurement is represented by innovative 'can doers', visionaries and dreamers, as opposed to 'we can't do that because of the rules' party-poopers;
  3. Think ahead and identify the means for public procurement to incentivise businesses to locate and invest in the eight areas demonstrating with a compelling business justification based on a high probability of public sector purchase orders - this in itself will need some sort of procurement think-tank;  
  4. Drive for an early audit, review and recast of procurement policy to ensure it is not a shield for defence but a sword for action;
  5. Revisit Procuring for the Future, Innovation Nation and the Department of Health's National Innovation Procurement Plan implementation, establish what impeded uptake, what worked and address the lessons learnt;
  6. Develop an approach for prototype procurement;
  7. Develop a strategy to establish trust in public procurement;
  8. Identify the key stakeholders;
  9. Identify the procurement risks and develop proactive, creative, constructive, non-impeding migration strategies.
Will we take the initiative? Will we accept the challenge? Who? Carpe diem. 

No comments:

Post a Comment