Skip to main content


UK Public Procurement of Innovation: The UK Case


This chapter provides a review and assessment of public procurement of innovation in the UK. Public procurement of innovation has long been of significant policy and research interest in the UK, but particularly so in the last decade. Accordingly, a host of initiatives and reports have been introduced aimed at mobilising the use of UK public procurement to support competitiveness and innovation. Despite conflicting objectives in procurement policy and a recent shift in focus towards efficiency in government spending and away from innovation, the UK case has been widely used as an international exemplar. The chapter is structured as follows: First, the context for the wider practice and governance of public procurement in the UK is introduced, including broad statistical evidence of the breadth of public procurement expenditure in the UK. Against this background, we provide a description of key policy initiatives designed to embed public procurement in the innovation policy portfolio of the UK. As examples, we provide some short case studies to explore the reach and limitations of the policy approaches and instruments used. We finally provide some conclusions about the recent development and foreseeable future use of innovation procurement in the UK. In particular, we question the level of dissemination and impact of some of these measures.


  • National Health Service
  • Public Procurement
  • Small Business Innovation Research
  • Government Procurement
  • Procurement Process

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-40258-6_12
  • Chapter length: 25 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-642-40258-6
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   149.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 12.1
Fig. 12.2
Fig. 12.3
Fig. 12.4


  1. 1.

    The Public Services Industry is defined as ‘All private and third sector enterprises that provide services to the public on behalf of Government or to the Government itself’ (Julius 2008: i).

  2. 2.

    Unless otherwise indicated, the chapter will concentrate on public procurement in UK central government, (English) local government and (English) National Health Service.

  3. 3.

    In 2010 there had been plans to disband the Audit Commission, however, as of summer 2012 it still was in operation, and discussions were still underway (accessed July 2012).

  4. 4.

    we are grateful to Colin Cram for this comment.

  5. 5.

    Improving access by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to procurement contracts was also the focus of the Better Regulation Task Force/Small Business Council Report ‘Government: Supporter or Customer?’ in 2003, which was taken up by the DTI and the OGC.

  6. 6.

    Cabinet Office, Government Appoints Chief Procurement Office to Cut Waste, 19 April 2011; Cabinet Office, Supplier Representatives to Cut Costs for Government, 13 April 2011.

  7. 7.

    ‘Science, Innovation and the Economy’, 9 July 2010, Royal Institution, London.

  8. 8.

    The role of science, research and innovation in creating growth, By Vince Cable, 8 September 2010, Queen Mary University of London.

  9. 9.

    In July 2011, an announcement was made that more than 1,400 jobs were to be cut at Bombardier, the UK’s last train manufacturing plant, in Derby. Job losses were announced after Bombardier lost the £3 billion contract to supply 1,200 carriages for the Thameslink route, a contract that was won by Siemens of Germany.

  10. 10.

    By Vince Cable, Secretary of State, 26 October 2011, The Ideas Space, Policy Exchange, 10 Storey's Gate, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AY.

  11. 11.

    The UK model, in contrast for example to the model used in the Netherlands, did not apply SBRI for the purpose of technology transfer and the application of emerging technology, see EU Commission 2010: 8–9.

  12. 12.

    Interview TSB.

  13. 13.

    For more details, see:

  14. 14.

    Including the pilot cases conducted in the context of the EU project LCB-Healthcare as part of the EU Lead Market Initiative, in partnership with nine hospitals across Europe (European Commission 2012).

  15. 15.


  16. 16.

    In the industrial strategy of the UK Coalition government public procurement that is based on the Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth public procurement is still one of the key pillars, but with less emphasis on innovation, and more emphasis on the attempts to better use public procurement for economic effects more generally, shaping markets and supporting supply chains within the UK., Accessed 25 October 2012.


  • Better Regulation Commission (2003) Government response: better regulation task force (BRTF) and small business council (SBC) report. Government: supporter and customer? BRC, London

    Google Scholar 

  • BIS (2011) Delivering best value through innovation: Forward commitment procurement. Department of Business Innovation and Skills, London. Nov 2011 URN 11/1054

    Google Scholar 

  • Bound K, Puttwick R (2010) Buying power? Is the small business research initiative for procuring R&D driving innovation in the UK? NESTA research report. NESTA, London. June 2010

    Google Scholar 

  • Byatt I (2001) Delivering better services for citizens-a review of local government procurement in England. DTLR/LGA, London. Accessed 10 May 2009

  • Cabinet Office (2011) The lean review: accelerating government procurement. Cabinet Office, London. Accessed 12 May 2012

  • Cabinet Office (2012) Making government business more accessible to SMEs: One year on. cabinet office, London. Mar 2012

    Google Scholar 

  • CBI/LGA (2008) Improving the strategic commissioning of public services: a joint LGA/CBI vision. CBI/LGA, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Connell W (2009) Creating an EU SBIR programme: lessons from the UK and proposals for EC action, EU workshop, Brussels, 16 June. Accessed 13 July 2012

  • Cox G (2005) Creativity in business: building on the UK’s strengths. London: HM treasury. Accessed 8 Oct 2009

  • DCLG (2006) Strong and prosperous communities: the local government white paper. Department of communities and local government, London. Accessed 12 May 2012

    Google Scholar 

  • DCLG (2009) Roots review: review of arrangements for efficiencies from smarter procurement in local government. Department of communities and local government, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Defra (2006) Procuring the future. Sustainable procurement national action plan: recommendations from the sustainable procurement task force. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), London

    Google Scholar 

  • Dey-Chowdhury S, Tily G (2007) The measurement and role of government procurement in Macroeconomic statistics. Econ Labour Market Rev 1(3):32–38

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • DIUS (2008a) Innovation nation. White paper. Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, London

    Google Scholar 

  • DIUS (2008b) Procuring for innovation, innovation for procurement. Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, London

    Google Scholar 

  • DTI (2003) Competing in the global economy: the innovation challenge. Department of Trade and Industry, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Edler J, Georghiou L (2007) Public procurement and innovation: resurrecting the demand side. Res Policy 36(7):949–963

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Edler J, Georghiou L, Blind K, Uyarra E (2012) Evaluating the demand side: new challenges for evaluation. Res Eval 21(1):33–47

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • European Commission (2010) EU SBRI: options paper and study of international best practice. Proposal for establishment of EU SBIR. 3rd Inno Partnering Council meeting in Delft. Workshop A 18th Nov

    Google Scholar 

  • European Commission (2012) Innovation procurement. Delivering efficiency, quality and sustainability in healthcare. A guide to innovation procurement for the healthcare sector. LCB-HEALTHCARE project, lead market initiative, Brussels

    Google Scholar 

  • Gershon P (1999) Review of civil procurement in central government. HM Treasury, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Gershon P (2004) Releasing resources to the frontline: Independent review of public sector efficiency. HM Treasury, London, July 2004

    Google Scholar 

  • Glover A (2008) Accelerating the SME economic engine: through transparent, simple and strategic procurement. HM Treasury, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Glover M (2012) SBRI (SBIR/PCP) in The UK government as a lead customer. presentation to EU commission workshop, 12 Mar

    Google Scholar 

  • Green P (2010) Efficiency review: key findings and recommendations. w.pdf. Accessed 5 May 2012

  • House of Lords (2011) Science and technology committee: first report. Public procurement as a tool to stimulate innovation. House of Lords, London. March 2011. Accessed 12 May 2012

  • Izsak K, Edler J (2011) Trends and challenges in demand: side innovation policies in Europe. Thematic report 2011 under specific contract for the integration of INNO policy trend chart with ERAWATCH (2011–2012), Brussels

    Google Scholar 

  • Julius D (2008) Understanding the public services industry: how big, how good, where next? department for business enterprise & regulatory reform (BERR), London. Accessed 10 Oct 2010

  • LGA/DCLG (2008) National improvement and efficiency strategy. January 2008. Department of communities and local government, London. Accessed 10 Feb 2010

    Google Scholar 

  • NAO (2010) Short guide to reorganising arm’s length bodies: good practice principles for implementation. National Audit Office, London. Accessed 6 June 2012

  • ODPM (2003) National procurement strategy for local government in England (2003–2006). Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, London

    Google Scholar 

  • OGC (2003) Report to the chancellor of the exchequer: increasing competition and improving long-term capacity planning in the government market place. Office for Government Commerce, London

    Google Scholar 

  • OGC (2004) Capturing innovation: nurturing. suppliers’ ideas in the public sector. office of government commerce, London. Accessed 08 Oct 2009

  • OGC (2010) Policy through Procurement (PtP) Action Plan. Office for Government Commerce, London

    Google Scholar 

  • OGC (2011) Public sector procurement expenditure survey. Office for Government Commerce, London. Accessed 8 Apr 2012

  • Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group/BIS (2012) Down to zero: joint public private low carbon procurement compacts. An invitation to suppliers. Department of business innovation and skills, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Sainsbury, Lord of Turville (2007), Race to the Top: A review of government’s science and innovation policies, HM Treasury, London. Accessed 26/08/2009

  • Scottish Government (2008) Public procurement reform programme: scottish procurement policy handbook. Dec 2008. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh

    Google Scholar 

  • Treasury HM (2007) Transforming government procurement. TSO, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Treasury HM (2009) Operational efficiency programme: collaborative procurement. HM Treasury, London

    Google Scholar 

  • HM Treasury (2010a) Public expenditure statistical analysis 2010. HM Treasury, London. July 2010. Accessed 5 May 2012

  • Treasury HM (2010b) Review of competitive dialogue. HM Treasury, London

    Google Scholar 

  • HM Treasury (2012) Public expenditure statistical analyses 2012. London: HM Treasury. Accessed 18 Feb 2013

  • HM Treasury/BIS (2011) The path to strong, sustainable and balanced growth. HM Treasury/BIS, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Treumer S, Uyarra E (2012) Competitive dialogue and contractual design fostering innovation and need analysis. In: Piga G, Treumer S (eds) The applied law and economics of public procurement. Routledge, London, p 13–27

    Google Scholar 

  • Uyarra E (2010) Opportunities for innovation through local government procurement: a case study of greater manchester. Research Report. NESTA, London. Accessed 2 Aug 2011

  • Williams R, Smellie R (1985) Public purchasing: an administrative cinderella. Publ Adm 63:23–39

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references


Research for this chapter was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council Grant R111539 with contributed support from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, NESTA and the Technology Strategy Board. The authors would like to acknowledge their generous support. We would also like to thank Colin Cram and Sue Creese for their feedback on earlier drafts.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elvira Uyarra .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Uyarra, E., Edler, J., Gee, S., Georghiou, L., Yeow, J. (2014). UK. In: Lember, V., Kattel, R., Kalvet, T. (eds) Public Procurement, Innovation and Policy. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Download citation