Policy Forum

 Challenges and opportunities for (public) procurement of innovation


November 16, 2016 at 14:30–17:30
University of Antwerp – city campus Building: Hof van Liere
Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium


Johan Braet
(co-chair RENT XXX – University of Antwerp)
Sven De Cleyn (co-chair RENT XXX – IMEC & University of Antwerp)

Target audience

  • Start-ups
  • Purchase managers / decision makers at larger companies
  • Public authorities (purchase managers and/or policy makers)
  • Researchers

Theme of the Policy Forum

Start-ups and SMEs developing innovative products typically encounter several hurdles when trying to sell to large multinationals companies and / or public authorities. This is due to several reasons. First and foremost, tendering processes tend to impose important restrictions on potential suppliers. Often, they need to be able to prove a track record of at least three years (through submitting their balance sheets of the last three years), or other criteria that makes it often impossible for  young companies  to  even participate in the tendering process. Additionally, multinationals and public authorities typically tend to be rather risk averse when it comes to buying products. The tenders or RFPs (requests for proposals) are often written in such a way that there is little room for creative solutions or more innovative products. Last but not least, it is usually harder for start-ups and SMEs to effectively get access to additional knowledge and insights through network contacts within these large organizations. All in all, the number of start-ups and small businesses that successfully gain (larger) contracts through tendering process is limited.

This policy workshop seeks solutions and hurdles that need to be removed in order to give more (equal) chances to start-ups and SMEs when it comes to the purchasing process of large companies and public authorities. Removing some barriers could lead to faster adoption of innovation.

Some examples of successful initiatives include the SBIR program in the US or the similar SBRI program in the UK. In 1982, the US government launched its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programme, encouraging government agencies to allocate at least 2.5% of their annual budget for outsourced projects to small, innovative companies. Under President Obama, the program was expanded even more: government bodies now have to allocate 3% of this budget to procurement of innovation. In their early years, IT companies such as Symantec, Qualcomm and iRobot have taken full advantage of this program, building on it to become large multinationals. The UK has a similar SBRI programme, its budget of 40 million GBP for the period 2012-2013 being increased to 200 million GBP for the period 2014-2015. In the Netherlands, an innovative procurement programme has been implemented since 2004. On a European level, the same approach is becoming increasingly popular as well, as is shown by the Public Procurement of Innovative Solutions (PPI) plans of the European Commission and the start-up manifesto of Neelie Kroes.


Preliminary programme

14.30–14.40 : Welcome: Robert Blackburn, ECSB President; Silke Tegtmeier, ECSB President-elect; Sven De Cleyn & Johan Braet, Co-chairs RENT XXX

14.40-15.10 :  Research perspectives on procurement of innovation

15.10–15.30 : Minister De Croo – Minister for Development, Digital Agenda and Telecom (Belgium)

15.30–15.50 : 3M – perspectives on international procurement of innovation 15.50–16.05 : Coffee break

16.05–16.25 : Insights from a Belgian start-up (Piet Vandaele, waylay)

16.25–16.40 : City of Antwerp initiatives & policy on procurement of innovation

16.40-17.15 : Roundtable discussion (with the speakers, moderated by Omar Mohout): challenges for (public) procurement of innovation

17.15–17.30 : Overall conclusion and invitation to the welcome reception (Johan Braet & Sven De Cleyn, Co-chairs  RENT XXX)


Practical information

Policy Forum location: University of Antwerp, Hof Van Liere, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.

There is no registration fee for registered persons for the RENT conference, but other persons will be invoiced for 35 euros (excl. VAT). Pre-registration is necessary (preferably before Thursday 10 November 2016).


More information about the Policy Forum or the RENT Conference can be asked by emailing: Eddy Laveren (Co-chair RENT 2016): eddy.laveren@uantwerpen.be or Silke Tegtmeier (ECSB President-elect):  tegtmeier@mci.sdu.dk