Coronavirus call to action: Need for Government to drive innovation
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is calling on Government to use its purchasing power to encourage products and services that drive innovation amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
A recent survey shows three in four UK adults (73%) believe that manufacturing should be a special case for government support to safeguard our future in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak*
Dave Smith, Chair of the Innovation and Emerging Technologies Policy Panel at the IET, explains: “Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the government had made significant investments to boost innovation, including the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Future Fellowships scheme. We especially welcome the £800m fund (known as ARPA) for promoting cutting edge innovation and technology. However, there is also a major opportunity for Government to support industry by using procurement to increase innovation and help small businesses scale up into medium businesses.
“The best way to support innovators – which are often SMEs – is not just to provide a one-off grant, but to instead award purchasing contracts. Government should not necessarily award contracts to the cheapest providers, but to companies who can provide the most overall value in terms of innovative solutions. We know that buying for the best overall benefit to the government - and the country - requires strong technical expertise within Government departments. There is now, more than ever, a greater role for engineers in advising government on procurement.
“For SMEs, long and arduous bidding processes, with high initial costs, restrict smaller companies and potentially innovative practices. A quicker and open initial process, which only requires full rigour at the point of final down selection, would help to make the procurement process faster and more accessible and ultimately more likely to succeed.
“We have an opportunity, as we leave the EU, to change regulation (and State Aid Rules) to make procurement easier and ensure that UK businesses are on a level playing field with the rest of the world, not just those within the EU. We call for a joined-up approach between State Aid Rules and the purchasing ability of Government to significantly boost innovation.”