It all started with an exceptional problem on a recently opened section of highway, in a mountainous area of Galicia. The very few 4 kilometres of the highway A-8 running through the Alto de O Fiouco (Mondeñedo, Lugo), has become a serious headache for its users, technicians and managers: the stubborn and thick fog, and at times, the strong wind which affects the highest passage of the highway (nearly 700 metres in height) cause constant traffic closures, without the various methods installed, which are effective for the rest of the roads, being able to resolve the effects of such controversial meteorology.
Finally, the Ministry of Public Works, with the support of Ineco, decided in 2015 to begin the search for alternative solutions to those currently existing in the market, through an innovative process of recruitment, the Public Procurement of Innovation (CPI, for its Spanish acronym). The aim was to develop a system of protection against the fog which would complement the measures that have already been installed, which practically cover the current state of the art in management and operation of roads (high reflectance signing, variable message panels, visibilemeters, fixed fog marker posts, section radar, etc.).
The main innovation of the process involves the participating companies proposing and developing new technological solutions, supported by the Public Administration, who defines the problem that needs resolving, establishes the validation criteria and functional specifications of the possible solutions and shares with the companies, in some of the more complex cases, the risks and benefits of R&D.
The new philosophy is: if it does not exist in the market, i encourage it to be researched and for innovative solutions to be proposed
Other cases of research of innovative solutions have emerged in the port of Málaga, the Galician health service (SERGAS) or the Hospital of Córdoba. Almost all of the goods and services sectors need to retrain with the improvements that contribute new technologies.
The established method for finding solutions to these unsatisfied demands is revolutionising the current administrative culture: the usual requirements (price, minimal risk) are replaced with a support policy for the private innovation through the commission of developing solutions which don’t exist, boosting the R&D. The new philosophy is: if it doesn’t exist in the market, I encourage it to be researched and for innovative solutions to be proposed.
The CPI is a public action, supported by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, for which administrations select R&D+I proposals presented by private companies, sometimes financed through the CDTI (Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology). The project, which was started by the Ministry of Public Works, consists of three phases: Preliminary Market Consultation, Pre-Commercial Public Procurement (development and prototype experimentation) and Commercial Purchase (implementation of the final solution in the section). The State contracting platform enables us to track the CPI contracts which have been carried out on the Ministry of the Finance and Public Administrations website (https://contrataciondelestado.es).
The first to support this type of recruitment is the European Commission itself, which has developed several “Guidance for public authorities on Public Procurement of Innovation” to advise on these procedures. Its vice-president Antonio Tajani argues in the prologue that “European public authorities all have a responsibility to favour innovation when producing and consuming goods and services. Public procurement of sustainable and innovative goods and services is one of the essential tools for stimulating new technological or service solutions while helping to create jobs and boost the competitiveness of European industry and SMEs. It also encourages more efficient public services”.