For public procurement to become the enabler of the bio-based economy craved by the EU, procurement authorities will need to work collectively and enable procurers to make more informed decisions. The InnProBio project has been clearing the way.
The EU’s confidence in bio-based products seems unshakeable: by 2020, it hopes to be the undisputed leader of a bio-based market worth some EUR 200 billion. The question is, how can this be achieved? Many stakeholders will point at public procurement as a key enabler – especially for niche or still burgeoning markets. But the truth is that procurers and decision makers are not equipped to make the best and most informed decision.
This is where the InnProBio (Forum for Bio-Based Innovation in Public Procurement) project kicks in. By building a community of public purchasers interested in bio-based products, its eight company-strong consortium aimed to help them identify relevant solutions and show them how bio-based products and services can fit into their innovation and procurement actions.
“Creating a community around the hot topics of bio-based products and services (BBPS) and public procurement of innovation (PPI) is important because, as we speak, there is no widespread pool of public procurement practitioners. Such a community would help disseminate information and knowledge and would also lead to an increase in procurement of BBPS and PPI,” says Moritz Westkämper, coordinator of InnProBio on behalf of the German Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR).
This seems only logical: whilst public purchases represent around 14 % of the EU’s GDP, converting this market power into a market pull mechanism requires the public sector to act as a single ‘unit’. This, in turn, can only be achieved with dedicated networks, tools and resources that are currently missing, and InnProBio aimed to fill the gap.
The first step consisted in mapping stakeholder needs: “The workshops that we organised quickly made it clear that there was a need for proper information to be made available in a compact format. This is why we designed an online toolbox containing information for public procurement, a set of factsheets, a glossary and other procurement tools such as tender text blocks, good practice cases and so on,” Westkämper explains.
Another thing that came out was the need for support from management positions (top-down support). The desire to procure sustainable BBPS indeed seemed to be insufficient, and public procurement practitioners would most likely stand to benefit from goals being set out by ministries and governments.
“All in all, we identified a series of barriers: a lack of knowledge of bio-based concepts and market; a lack of procurement methods; a lack of political and management support; a lack of communication within organisations; and other barriers related to costs, industry-specific barriers and a lack of trust,” says Westkämper.
The consortium is confident that the online toolbox, along with workshops and market dialogues, will help remove these barriers. If these are combined with a unified approach and support from management positions to public procurement practitioners, as well better communication within departments and between different procurement departments, they believe that a community of practice could arise and that buying groups could create a market opening for BBPS.
In the long run, the developed tools will help public procurement practitioners look for BBPS and procure them. There is a justified hope that fossil-based products and services will be replaced by BBPS. The public service has such a market power that an established procurement of BBPS could mirror consumer behaviour and thus lead to a sustainable society.
Now that the project has been completed, the InnProBio team intends to use the information material and procurement tools they developed in other EU-funded projects. Project partners are also taking up the results at the national level, with one prominent project being the German national procurement project ‘Nachwachsende Rohstoffe im Einkauf’ supporting the procurement of bio-based products in Germany, which organises workshops and market dialogues. “The project notably created a ‘bio-based office’ which is presented at procurement fairs as a pop-up office. This is a unique opportunity to see and experience first-hand how a bio-based office can look,” Westkämper concludes.
Martin Behrens, Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (FNR): firstname.lastname@example.org
John Vos, BTG Biomass Technology Group BV: email@example.com