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 4: Public procurement of innovation diffusion

Max Rolfstam

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


One single case study giving an anomalous result such as the one discussed in the previous chapter makes a weak foundation for reformulation of a theoretical proposition. One case is however still enough to falsify the general claim made in the past that the EC procurement directives inhibit innovation and the implications for innovation policy that comes with it. Demonstrating that it is possible to procure innovations within the legal framework raises questions to what extent revision of the directives might be adequate to facilitate public procurement of innovation. A case suggesting that public procurement of innovation is indeed feasible within the current EC directives also provokes some other questions. One set of questions would aim at understanding further the reasons for the success and if there are any more generic lessons useful for any instance of public procurement of innovation to be derived. It should be noted that the results do not suggest that public procurement of innovation is free from problems, only that the earlier attempts to reduce the discussion to a legal problem are inadequate. Still, if one assumes that the findings in Chapter 3 are valid beyond the case itself, one question in particular becomes interesting: if the EC directives are not hindering innovation, what is? In order to pursue this question, it may be useful to reflect on the case discussed in Chapter 3 a bit more. The case study described public procurement that in compliance with the EC directives successfully delivered innovation.

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