Main insights from the PREPARE workshop on demand driven innovation

On 27th June 2024, the PREPARE partners shared a first round of insights with an audience of 35 regional stakeholders interested in demand-driven policies adapted to the realities of European regions.

The workshop stressed the need to explore new models that tap into incorporating innovation in the public sector while increasing business competitiveness and citizen welfare.

The event started with a motivational keynote on the benefits of the demand driven approach, where the main takeaways were:

1.- Regional policymakers do not have as many resources to promote demand-driven and/or procurement of innovation programs as funding bodies at national or European level. However, they have some advantages:

  • Regional bodies have access to funding sources like the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) that are annually available, which means that their calls are periodic and therefore, predictable. This enables the ecosystem to be ready before they are launched. This approach allows stakeholders to increasingly improve after each iteration, leveraging prior networks and training.
  • Regional stakeholders can easily coordinate the actions related to added value business services targeting SMEs, like business modelling, access to private investment, or internationalization.
  • The regional approach, focused on better defined geographical areas, enables faster and more effective dissemination and matchmaking.

2.- Regional Development Agencies, or equivalents that locally promote innovation, can develop leaner methodologies and instruments that start from the identification of challenges from demanders of innovation to their deployment or further improvement. For example, the figure below presents the GUIA approach: Guided Innovation Adoption starting with a preparatory phase that includes the identification of the regional needs, moves into the implementation of an innovation instrument focused on the cocreation of the solutions and ends with the adoption of the solutions developed, while allows the identification of new challenges that will be addressed by implementing the model again.

Following, regional representatives from PREPARE consortium: Murcia (Spain), Skåne (Sweden), Bucharest Ilfov (Romania), and Oulu (Finland), presented the main insights gained after their interaction with their local ecosystem. The main common regional insights were:

  • Big buyers have a big role to impact to the market and a responsibility of the welfare and economy on the region. Citizens needs should be in the core when planning the next service production by public procurement.
  • Innovation procurement is not frequently applied in public sectors because there is uncertainty about the rules and regulations governing collaboration between public and private sectors. The majority of those with experience in such collaboration believe it should be used more extensively but the knowledge about innovation procurement as a tool is very low.
  • There are not that many formal structures to manage innovation procurement in public bodies. Despite of this, discreet initiatives are launched by the government to encourage innovation in public administration, to train public officers, but the new ideas for improving public services are usually treated under local development strategies or as stand-alone initiatives/projects.
  • There is lack of innovation procurement culture in public bodies, including the lack of basic knowledge on the processes and of dedicated structures indicate no formal strategy to encourage staff participation.

The main individual regional insights were:

  • In Bucharest-Ilfov, the potential for innovation is immense, yet there are key areas for growth. Enhancing the semantic interoperability of terms like “innovation” can pave the way for more consistent understanding and application. Developing robust innovation management practices within public and private entities will further support this effort. By addressing these areas, they can establish a clear vision for the stages involved in innovation procurement. Additionally, by ensuring that solutions are concrete and applicable, the concerns about compliance can be mitigated, fostering a more confident and proactive approach to innovation. 
  • The overall innovation system works relatively well in Oulu Region and there is regional understanding of its objectives and goals. However, stakeholders and policy makers realize the need for better adoption of innovation and procurement. The situation applies to funding, especially to ERDF-funding. This requires general training and support. City of Oulu also has new Procurement Program which also gives ideas for other municipalities in the region to use innovative procurement.   
  • In Skåne, there is a behaviour among individuals that contributes to a culture that does not allow for failure, which stifles development and improvements. Work with leadership – a clear mission and mandate are required, shifting from individual-based to system-anchored leadership. Also, the system is difficult to navigate, with unclear responsibilities and roles, hindering efficiency and clarity. Establish a clear connection between vision, strategy, and implementation. Develop a clear internal process following iterative logic for the entire innovation journey, in collaboration with support functions. 
  • Murcia region has a wide experience working with demand driven instruments but still, the alignment of technological innovation with procurement processes faces several key challenges. Firstly, there is often a misalignment of timing between technological innovation and researchers and the procurement processes. To address this, it is necessary to be less ambitious in defining core activities and to allow sufficient time for genuine co-creation between the challengers and solvers. Additionally, limited resources are a significant obstacle. The scarcity of human and financial resources necessitates investment in human capital and the search for additional funding. 

PREPARE has also created a database as is an online library with 300+ resources. The database is open and free to access and welcomes resources for 3rd parties. Access the library here. 

In case you could not attend the workshop but are interested in the topic, access all the workshop documents:

  • Access the presentation here.
  • The results from the interactive session with the audience can be accessed here.
  • If you are interested in knowing more about the demand-driven approach and its benefits, read this article. 


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