"Procurement policy
doesn’t allow it"

This is often why pioneering place leaders are missing out on creative and innovative opportunities to help solve their pressing service and policy challenges
Sam Markey
Ecosystem director

About smarter spending

The UK public sector spends £300bn a year buying good, services and works from the private sector. UK local government procurement alone accounts for £60bn a year. This represents a huge market and a significant lever public authorities can use to create and shape markets.

However, despite all this potential to drive strategic outcomes, public procurement is largely under-exploited as a mechanism for sparking and scaling innovation. The UK Government’s Innovation Strategy notes “a low appetite for risk and experimentation” in public procurement, due to “the overall culture, expertise and incentive structure of the public sector”. As a result, UK public procurement is still largely characterised by procedures which over-specify on requirements (leaving little room for innovation) and select based largely on price. Faced with a whole box of tools, procurement professionals invariably reach for the same procedure each time.

By procuring more innovative solutions, the public sector can be a driver of innovative new ideas, providing innovative firms with the foothold they need to succeed in the market, fuelling the scale-up ecosystem and facilitating wider adoption of new tech services. At the same time, procuring more innovative products and services can lead to better and cheaper public services in the long run.
UK Government, Leading the future by creating it: Innovation Strategy, July 2021
Initiatives for 2023


Our aim is to up-skill public sector buyers in innovation-friendly procurement approaches, leading to greater regional R&D activity and private sector investment.

Through IPEC we will inspire and empower public authorities to adopt new procurement behaviours through practical support, the creation of robust evidence which makes the case for change and collective action.

Smarter Spending Resources

Results found
Episode 55
What next for innovation-friendly procurement?
Money is tight right now. Tough times call for a renewed focus on how public money is spent.
Case Study
Geofencing: innovative technology to improve trackside worker safety
Network Rail and Connected Places Catapult won the Safety Award at the Railway Industry Association’s Railway Industry Supplier Excellence awards on 29 June for their work to take forward a new piece of technology known as ‘geofencing’.
Sparking innovation in the market: The role of expert support hubs
By adopting innovative solutions, the public sector can make services work better for people, and cut costs.
Sparking innovation through the market: A review of pioneering practice
Public procurement in the UK is failing to reach its potential as a driver of innovation and growth.
Procurement Bill 2022 – Initial Assessment
Innovation procurement is challenging, and many commercial departments struggle to engage with it. We recommend that the planned dissemination programme, already announced, should be extended to include a best practice centre in innovative procurement to build up a knowledge centre with case studies, training and practical advice on contract development.
How Data can Accelerate Procurement of Innovation
In the first wave of the pandemic last year in March, the Welsh Government approached the Defence and Security Accelerator, Innovate UK and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down for help in finding innovative solutions to speed up cleaning. A Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) call was issued, and received over 200 […]
How Belfast is Using Procurement to Unlock Economic Value
Given that a substantial proportion of Belfast City Council’s public services are funded through these local taxes, it was clear that the city needed an up-to-date register of businesses. “Over the past decade, Belfast’s economy has become increasingly dynamic, with lots of new businesses either setting up or moving premises every month. That’s obviously good […]
Pioneering Partnership to Boost Regional Innovation

The latest in smarter spending

Embracing new ideas can help to transform public service, says Connected Places Catapult’s new Innovation Procurement Empowerment Centre head, Rikesh Shah.
Natalie Jameson was shortlisted for the Northern Power Women Inclusive Innovation Award earlier this year, sponsored by Connected Places Catapult, and talks about why being inclusive is important to her.