Innovation Partnership

Can we tender innovation’ Ronald van Warmerdam asked himself and us in his blog on August 11, 2014. Sure we can I would dare to say, but maybe not in the way we are used to. As Ronald stated in his article: the traditional procedures will not fit the demands of owners searching for innovation and will not fit suppliers who want to sell or develop innovative products.

Maybe there is a solution at hand. On March 28, 2014 the European Union published the tender directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement. One of the new items in this directive is the so called Innovation Partnership. A new tendering procedure specifically for the development and following purchase of innovative products, works and services. This procedure can be used under the agreed conditions for the products, works or services.

Goal of this new type of tendering is the stimulation of innovation and to support member states to reach their goals towards a more sustainable economic growth.

This procedure can be used in situations when there is a need for an innovative product, work or service what is not already available in the market. The contracting authority can enter in a partnership with the aim to develop and purchase the innovative products, works or services. A full swing tendering procedure is not mandatory in this situation.


Article 31 of the public procurement directive 2014/24/EU describes the Innovation Partnership procedure. In general the following aspects define the procedure for an Innovation Partnership:

  • The procedure has to be published by the contracting authority.
  • Any economic operator can submit a request for participation in the procedure. The contracting authority can decide if it will enter into the partnership with one or more partners.
  • During procedures the contacting authority can reduce the number of tenders on the basis of specific award criteria specified in the tender documents.
  • The partnership is structured in several successive phases following the sequence of steps in the research and innovation process. The partnership sets intermediate targets to be attained.
  • The contracting authority can, after each phase, decide to end the partnership or reduce the numbers of partners if this possibility and the relevant conditions are already mentioned in the procurement documents.

In conclusion

How will this stimulate innovation in Smart City development?

In any way this new procedure within the European public procurement directive offers contracting authorities the opportunity to set out the problem without defining any directions for the answer upfront. As stated in Ronald’s blog ‘you cannot describe something you don’t know’. Any such description is not necessary anymore in the innovation partnership procedure. Parties entered in the partnership work alongside in the development of products, works or services that are useful to fulfill the contracting authority’s needs.

The Innovation Partnership is a new procedure in the European procurement directive without a track record. The usability of the procedure has to prove itself in the future. In any case I expect innovation will no longer be blocked by the rules of European procurement. The Innovation Partnership offers a good opportunity for stimulation of innovation towards sustainable economic growth and smart, innovative cities. The step by step approach Ronald promotes is clearly made possible by this Innovation Partnership.

1e3e6d2Mr. Dik van Manen
Senior adviseur Contracteren en Aanbesteden
Twynstra Gudde

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