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19 November 2015

Local government spending power can drive shift towards innovation

Innovative reforms in the way cities purchase goods and services is leading to greener, more efficient and more cost-friendly municipal services. In the past when faced with an outdated product, procurers often asked suppliers for the most updated version of the item, ignoring the potential to find a more innovative solution. Today, this mindset is changing.

Public procurers are reaching out to the entrepreneurial community, encouraging the private sector to come up with clever solutions to recurring issues. Increasingly local governments are focusing on the problem rather than on specifications, giving the market greater leeway to propose answers. San Francisco (USA), for example, issued a one-page, easy to understand call for solutions to replace its outdated street light network. The city ended up accepting an innovative proposal from a Swiss company.

The product provided was superior to the old street lights in a number of ways – the lights were environmentally sound, could be remotely controlled (including dimmed on command), and collected data on the surrounding conditions. The new bulbs also reduced light pollution, lasted longer than traditional bulbs, and used less energy. Through making even minor changes to the way they spend their budget, local governments can have a significantly positive impact on their city.

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