Public Procurement and Innovation

Public Procurement and Innovation

The Role of Institutions

Max Rolfstam

Max Rolfstam examines the increasing emphasis on public procurement as a means to stimulate innovation and the theoretical implications of this policy development. While ‘regular’ public procurement may be regarded as the outcome of anonymous market processes, public procurement of innovation must be understood as a special case of innovation, where social processes, and consequently the institutions governing these social processes, need to be considered. This book contributes to our understanding with a detailed institutional analysis of the public procurement of innovation.

Chapter 2: Public procurement of innovation theory

Max Rolfstam

Subjects: business and management, public management, innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public administration and management


Any attempt to discuss theory in social sciences may run the risk of at least implicitly assuming the existence of a dichotomy between ‘academic’ or ‘theoretical’ knowledge on one side and ‘practice’ on the other. Although such framing may sometimes be justifiable it would be a misleading assumption for a theoretical discussion on public procurement of innovation. New knowledge on this topic has evolved in such a way that ‘theory’, ‘policy’ and ‘practice’ are intertwined. Public procurement of innovation is a knowledge domain that, at least in the last decade, has been propelled by three main drivers: academic research, innovative policy making, and practice. For instance, in the early years of the 2000s, the development of the field was highly influenced by academic innovation researchers. Academics such as Georghiou and Tsipouri played a pivotal role in formulating the initial ideas concerning using public procurement to stimulate demand for innovation (Guy et al., 2003). Policy makers have acted by establishing innovative instruments. Examples at the European level are the lead market initiative, or the development of pre-commercial procurement as a model for procuring innovation. In the wake of these concrete initiatives, expert groups and coordination actions of research- ers, policy makers and practitioners have been set up to evaluate and promote the initiatives. On the national levels public agencies have made available different types of support and funding. Practice, in particular cases of ‘best practice’, has played an important role as examples offered as inspiration to others.

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