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30 December 2014

€140 million in EU funding available for PCP and PPI projects

EU funding instrument Horizon 2020 is offering financial support of between €130 and €140 million to enhance pre-commercial procurement (PCP) and public procurement of innovation (PPI). The funding will help consortia of European procurers to prepare and undertake a PCP or PPI procurement, and to cooperate on identifying opportunities and preparing for future PCP and PPI activities.

The money will be spread across the various Horizon 2020 work programmes, namely European research infrastructures; information and communication technologies (ICT); health; food/bio-economy; energy; transport; and climate change/environment. In addition to these specific areas, there is also an open call within the ICT Work Programme, through which procurers can tender based on any area of public interest that can be aided by an ICT solution.

The deadline for the open call, which has a budget of €4 million, is 14 April 2015. The overarching aim of the funding is to improve the efficiency and quality of public services in Europe. The Horizon 2020 programme provides financial support for projects that bolster research and innovation in Europe, thereby driving economic growth and creating jobs.

For more information, visit the website of the European Commission.


23 December 2014

ENIGMA study visit participants attend innovative GLOW festival

The first study visit of the ENIGMA project saw representatives from Antwerp (Belgium), Belfast and London (United Kingdom), and Dubrovnik (Croatia) meet in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) from 12 – 14 November 2014 to discuss the Dutch city's exemplary public lighting scheme. Light designers, intelligent system engineers, city marketers and other local stakeholders shared information with the international delegates on their role in designing the Dutch “city of lights”.

Alderman Mary-Ann Schreurs gave attendees an introduction to Eindhoven’s smart city ambitions, while Rik van Stiphout looked at Eindhoven's innovative lighting strategy. The visiting cities also gave presentations on their local light plans and light festivals, which led to lively discussion among the group (all presentations from the study visit are available online). The yearly GLOW festival, an event which includes installations, sculptures, projections and performances by Dutch and international light artists, coincided with the study visit.

ENIGMA was presented at the festival, which was attended by 650,000 people. The EU-funded project aims to implement a joint transnational pre-commercial procurement procedure in the field of public lighting, while stimulating research and development in the field of lighting by asking the industry to develop new products that correspond to societal needs.

For more information, visit the ENIGMA website.


18 December 2014

DG Growth invites PPI Award finalist to showcase procurement activities

Public Procurement of Innovation (PPI) Award finalist AWABOT was recently invited to present their innovative distance learning robot to the General Assembly of DG Growth (formerly DG ENTR and MARKET). The innovative procurement activities of Région Rhône Alpes (France) and supplier AWABOT came to the attention of the European Commission thanks to promotion stemming from their nomination for the PPI Award 2014.

Région Rhône Alpes wanted to improve the educational opportunities for high school students who have an illness that prevents them from attending classes, and asked the market through a competitive dialogue to design a robotic solution. Technology company AWABOT proposed a product that allows students to follow lessons by e-learning, whilst enabling them to communicate with friends and teachers.

The end robot offers permanent access to education for sick teenagers, limits isolation and encourages social links. The success of the procurement process led AWABOT to dedicate greater resources to developing similar products. The budget for the procurement was €490,000. Through the procurement AWABOT was able to create five additional jobs.

For more information, visit the PPI Award page.


17 December 2014

EU-funded project offers public procurers support in purchasing cloud computing services

A new initiative funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme aims to make it easier for public sector authorities to procure cloud computing services, as well as spreading awareness about the possibilities offered by cloud computing in general. To achieve this goal, the Procurement Innovation for Cloud Services in Europe (PICSE) project will set up a European Procurers’ Platform, providing information, best practice case studies, and a roadmap for cloud procurement over the next five years.

To better identify existing barriers that public procurers face when attempting to purchase cloud services, the project has launched an online survey. European public procurers with experience in the field are invited to take part, with all identities kept anonymous. The answers collected will feed into a report on challenges and solutions in procuring cloud services.

The project also offers a “Partner Search” facility, through which public authorities looking to apply for EU-funded projects can find organisations to join in their bid. Interested parties simply state what type of consortium partner they are looking for, and the request will be published on the PICSE website, reaching a wide-range of relevant stakeholders.

For more information, visit the PICSE website.


11 December 2014

Early review of Austrian action plan on innovative procurement reveals positive results

A review of the implementation of Austria's action plan on promoting innovation within public procurement has shown that good progress has been made, and that the plan has been received positively by the Austrian procurement community. Adopted in 2012 and covering the period 2013 – 2014, the plan aims to improve public services through increasing the instances of public procurement of innovation (PPI) and pre-commercial procurement (PCP).

In addition to improved public services, it is also foreseen that innovative procurement will help in tackling societal challenges, particularly in the fields of health, safety and security, and sustainability. Whilst progress rates in most areas are seen as positive, the review notes that further development is required in the areas of planning and budgeting for PPI and PCP.

A political discussion with the goal of setting a budgetary percentage for innovative procurement is recommended, similar to the 3 percent target agreed in Spain, and 2 percent target in France. Another recommendation is to merge the requirements of innovative procurement with those of green and fair procurement, making it easier for procurers to follow all regulations. A comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the action plan is scheduled for 2016.

For more information, download the policy brief.


10 December 2014

EU seeks SMEs to join “champions’ league” of innovation

The European Union is recruiting the most innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to join an elite group dubbed the "champions' league" of European innovation. The group will help ideas move from labs to the market, bolstering Europe’s efforts in the fields of research and innovation. The group is part of the EU's SME Instrument, an offshoot of the funding programme Horizon 2020, which provides funding and support for innovation projects.

Specifically, the group is searching for SMEs that have an innovative prototype close to being ready for market, particularly those which will be a "game changer" for Europe and beyond. Companies interested in applying to join the group will also need to outline why they, and not their competitors, will be successful in bringing their innovative project to market. The SME Instrument further asks applicants to detail how they will monetise their innovation, thereby creating a bankable product.

It is noted that firms that have been established for four years or more tend to have higher success rates than younger companies, while organisations with six or more staff are more likely to receive funding. Although this level of experience and staffing are not requirements, they have proven to be useful indicators in the past, writes the SME Instrument.

For more information, visit the EASME website.


5 December 2014

Chicago to use street lighting to gather environmental information

The City of Chicago (USA) is set to install 40 sensor nodes on light poles at the University of Chicago, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, with the partial aim of optimising traffic lights for pedestrians. The idea is that the nodes will monitor the flow of pedestrians at crossings, enabling traffic signals to adapt to foot traffic, rather than road traffic. Led by the University of Chicago’s Urban Centre for Computational Data (Urban CCD), the Array of Things initiative will eventually consist of a system of 1,000 sensors collecting information on temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide, vibrations, light, and sound every 15 seconds.

This data will be fed back to government officials and residents, providing them with greater environmental information and a better understanding of pedestrian flows. This information can then be converted into initiatives to help make Chicago a happier, healthier, and smarter place to live. Ideas include: improved emergency transport routes; better resource allocation, such as salt for icy roads; and increased personal health awareness, including exposure to carbon monoxide and allergens.

“Right now, we don’t have any scientific data that proves if you do X, Y, or Z, it will improve walkability,” says Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban CCD. “I’m interested in collaborating with architects and designers to see if we can put some data behind the rules of thumb in urban design.”

For more information, visit the Array of Things website.


3 December 2014

UK councils reuse scheme reduces waste and saves money

Warp It is a UK reuse scheme established in 2011 that reduces council waste and saves money by providing an online platform for councils to loan or give away unwanted public resources. Public authorities, schools, charities and other organisations can use the platform to acquire the resources they need for free or at a heavily reduced rate.

By placing resources up for grabs, namely, office furniture and equipment, councils have seen significant public procurement savings. Northumberland County Council (UK) reduced procurement spending by 64 percent in one year, and 18 months later actual spending fell from £97,614 (€123,070) to £4,202 (€5,300). Dundee City Council (UK) has saved £100,000 (€126,080) in costs and donated over £20,000 (€25,200) in equipment to third sector organisations over a period of six months.

“Flexible working arrangements, office moves, downsizing and company expansion all affect the quantity and style of equipment required. Linking to an online platform, however, can alert staff to available items before they are needed, and negates the time consuming and expensive practice of raising purchase orders,” says Daniel O’Connor, Warp It Chief Executive. Notably, the website claims to have saved 995,004kg of CO2 and 432 days of staff time, while diverting 366,254kg of waste to date.

For more information, visit the Warp It website.