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Ever heard of the Innovation Partnership procedure?

We were intrigued to help a client recently on their approach to an Innovation Partnership response – a procedure that’s relatively unusual in the public sector bidding world.

Government public sector procurement and the innovation partnership

So what's an Innovation Partnership?

For context, public sector bidding follows set procedures that determine how the purchasing body goes to market – setting things like timescales, process, minimum numbers of bidders, who is allowed to bid, and what forms need filling out when. What we see most of are Open (anyone can go for it, simple and fast), Restricted (only certain suppliers, simple process), or one of the Competitive ones (Dialogue or Negotiation – both complicated and time-consuming). What is not seen often is the Innovation Partnership.

The Innovation Partnership is aimed at the development of new and innovative products or services. So if you want to buy something that doesn’t exist on the market, this is a way you can encourage suppliers to invest in the R&D needed to develop the new thing (like say a COVID vaccine...)

The public body can enter into a long-term contract with a supplier to develop the new product/service, and then procure the new thing once it’s developed. This gives the supplier certainty that they will be able to sell the result, and can involve payment for development too.

What's the process?

If you want the detail, it’s in Regulation 31, but it’s largely the same as Competitive Dialogue if you’re familiar with that. It’s a less proscriptive procedure than the others, so you really want the purchaser to know what they want and how they want to run the process in detail…

  1. PIN – we’re coming to market for some innovation everyone

  2. SQ or another expression of interest – we’d like a shortlist, please fill this form out (and probably here’s a draft ITT)

  3. Shortlisting those who will be invited to participate

  4. Tender invitation – proposals please for these minimum requirements

  5. Evaluation – MEAT as usual

  6. Negotiation to improve the content of proposals, update technical specs as needed

  7. Final tender (or maybe more rounds of negotiation)

  8. Preferred, standstill, contract – one or more partners can be picked to go to contract for a two phase delivery

  9. Development of the innovative service/thing – following R&D steps with set payment points and the ability to terminate if it’s not going well

  10. Purchase of the resulting services/things – assuming it meets target performance and cost requirements.

Things to think about as a bidder

It's always interesting to do something a bit different, so embrace any chance you get at being involved with an Innovation Partnership bid. Spend a little time thinking about the implications of the procedure and subject-matter.

  • Given the nature of the subjects and R&D in general, special consideration should be made around what you consider your Confidential Information, and how you want to handle the control of it.

  • Selection has to pay special attention to bidders’ capacity in the field of R&D and development of innovative solutions. So if you don’t have the creds this may not be for you.

  • Intellectual Property terms are a contentious one at the best of times, so read those terms closely.

  • You can expect collaboration to be a thing.

  • Not many customers or bidders have extensive experience in the procedure, so find someone who knows what they are doing...


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