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29 January 2015

Dutch Ministry encourages procurement of innovation through policy framework document

Rijkswaterstaat, the body within the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment responsible for infrastructure facilities, has launched a new policy framework for the public procurement of innovation. The Ministry wishes to use procurement of innovation to meet upcoming challenges, particularly those posed by climate change. The framework document is intended to provide guidance to those seeking to undertake this relatively new form of procurement.

Through adhering to the new policy framework, Rijkswaterstaat states that The Netherlands will be able to procure modern solutions that provide smarter, safer, cheaper and more sustainable performance. The current ambition is to achieve a 2.5 percent share of public procurement of innovation, with all barriers towards innovation removed. The document states that the purchasing of innovative solutions will only be achieved through greater interaction with other parties, investments in areas that may seem uncertain, and the freedom and mandate to try new things.

Whilst avoiding detailed rules, the document provides information on taking a process-based approach towards procurement of innovation, dealing with obstacles to innovation, and provides advice for various situations that may arise when procuring innovative products and services. Rijkswaterstaat’s experience of procuring innovation within European projects is also included.

To read the policy framework, download the PDF.


27 January 2015

UK adoption of EU procurement directives predicted to enhance innovation

UK authorities believe that the incorporation of the new EU public procurement directives into national legislation will lead to greater innovation through encouraging pre-procurement market engagement. The directives will be transposed in three stages, the first of which is set for completion in early 2015. The deadline set by the European Commission for the national adoption of the rules is April 2016.

Ed Green, deputy director of EU and domestic procurement policy at the Crown Commercial Service, a public body that provides commercial services to the public sector, bringing together policy, advice and direct buying, told the Government Procurement Summit in London (UK) that the new regulations would result in procurers achieving greater value in public contracts, and would support economic development and reduce the British deficit.

“Procurement is a strategic priority to drive public service reform... You can drive much more value by engaging with the market pre-procurement and in contract management. The new rules should help with that. That’s where we want to see a step change," said Mr. Green.

For more information, visit the Supply Management website.


22 January 2015

OECD report shows economic growth not slowed by green policies

The drive towards more sustainable, less-polluting economies does not result in lower productivity or reduced economic activity, a new study by the OECD has revealed. The study shows that while countries may initially experience a fall in economic growth as companies adapt to green regulations, what follows is generally a rebound period, with companies increasing productivity through enhancing innovation and taking advantage of new opportunities opened by the regulations.

Although more polluting companies have generally seen a downturn as a result of national efforts to combat climate change, the shortfall in production from these businesses has been picked up by companies with cleaner-business models, meaning the net effect has been minimal. The report stressed that to maintain or increase growth, green policies must be implemented in a manner that does not impede competition, or which presents an unreasonable “green administrative burden”.

The OECD recommends that policies be target concerned without being overly prescriptive, allowing firms to find the best ways to embrace sustainability. "The policy message is clear: more stringent environmental policies, when properly designed, can be introduced to benefit the environment without any loss in productivity," the report states. “Environmental policies can and should be shaped to spawn new ideas, mobilise cleaner technologies and encourage new business models that benefit both the economy and the environment.”

For more information, view the December OECD Policy Brief [PDF].


20 January 2015

Applications open for Public Procurement of Innovation Award 2015

Following the success of the inaugural edition, public procurers who have worked with the private sector to purchase innovative, more effective and efficient products or services are invited to apply for the Public Procurement of Innovation Award 2015. The award is open to applicants from national, regional and local public authorities, while nominees for the 2014 PPI Award can apply using a new or improved tender.

In addition to media attention, the winning candidate will be presented with a trophy and the title of “European innovation procurement of the year” at a prestigious ceremony attended by high-level representatives of the European Commission. To take part, prospective applicants should fill in the application form and submit it to Submissions are accepted until 27 March 2015.

Dutch hospital Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam overcame competition from five other finalists to be awarded the first ever PPI Award in September 2014. The hospital impressed the jury (comprised of respected professionals in the field) with its innovative robotic bed washing facility, which used high precision cleaning robots to disinfect hospital beds in a conveyor belt format. The award was presented by the European Commission’s Bonifacio Garcia Porras.

For more information, visit the Award page.


15 January 2015

Clean Fleets releases new guide and Life-Cycle Cost tool for clean vehicle procurement

Through making green choices, public procurers of vehicles have the capacity to drive down energy consumption, noise, and greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. The Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD) aims to mainstream this, promoting the purchase of vehicles with higher energy and environmental performance standards. To aid public authorities in adhering to the CVD, the Clean Fleets team has developed a guide on how to procure clean and energy-efficient vehicles in practice, and an accompanying Life-Cycle Cost (LCC) tool. Both are free to download.

Titled “Procuring clean and efficient road vehicles”, the Clean Fleets guide presents in-depth information on procuring vehicles in line with the CVD, backed-up by real life examples from public procurers. It shows in detail how environmental criteria can be introduced at various stages of the procurement process.

The LCC tool empowers procurers to measure the cost of their fleet over its full life span, granting an insight into environmental impacts in addition to financial costs. The information provided by the tool can be used to stimulate the procurement of innovative solutions. Supporting factsheets developed by the project are additionally available online, providing definitions and pertinent information on a range of topics, including vehicle test cycles, EU legislation and policy, and more.

For more information, visit the Clean Fleets publications page.


13 January 2015

Study reveals cost-benefit analysis approach not being embraced by decision makers

The use of a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to make policy decisions is not being widely implemented, with many decision-makers believing that CBA can lead to a loss of control and influence over policy-making, a study involving those responsible for water policy management in Germany has revealed. The majority of those interviewed for the study perceived CBA to weaken their ability to make decisions based on their own expertise.

CBA is used to determine the cost of projects, policies or actions in terms of the environment and human welfare. It places a monetary value on aspects such as "ecosystem services", enabling such a value to be included in the decision making process. However, CBA has had only a limited impact on decision-making to date, as many refuse to implement it. Study interviewees felt that the values in CBA calculations were too black and white, whereas human analysis can be more nuanced.

Established, traditional, procedures were seen by the majority as sufficient for decision making. The author of the study argues that to change the mindset towards CBA, a discussion should take place on how economic information should be integrated into the decision-making process, one that involves cooperation between those in academia who designed the approach, and the authorities implementing it.

For more information, visit [pdf].


8 January 2015

Vegetable-based plastics provide environmentally friendly alternative

Thanks to new research, the 24 million tonnes of vegetable waste produced in Europe annually could be used to create a biodegradable, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional plastic. Parsley and spinach stems, cocoa pod husks and rice hulls from industrial producers were chemically treated by researchers to create plastic film coatings and other forms of bio-plastic, found to dissolve in water more quickly and contain lower toxicity levels than regular plastic.

The biodegradable plastics also performed well when measured against conventional plastics, broadly matching them in terms of durability and range of applications. Plastics made from spinach and parsley waste was shown to be extremely malleable, while plastics made from cocoa husks excelled in terms of strength.

The bio-plastics are also easily recyclable. Although the findings are promising, further research is required into the impact the release of large quantities of trifluoroacetic acid – the main chemical in the vegetable-based plastics – will have on the environment before it can be deemed entirely environmentally friendly.

For more information, read the Science for Environment Policy newsletter [PDF].