What are the legal and technical aspects of procuring innovation in the urban mobility context? This is what the SPICE workshop on 17th January in Haarlem, the Netherlands, hosted by Rijkswaterstaat, aimed to find out.

The workshop, attended by around twenty participants, was structured in two parallel working groups. The first, moderated by Mr Lasse Stender and Mr Martin Holmgaard (North Denmark Region) focused on the legal aspects of procurement of innovation and the EU Directive 2014/24/EU on Public Procurement, whereas the second group, led by Mr Sebe Vogel (Rijkswaterstaat) looked at the technical aspects of procuring electric vehicles.

In the legal working group, participants discussed the legal definitions of “procurement”, “research and development” (R&D), and “innovation”. Distinguishing between procurement of R&D and procurement of innovation is important due to the exemption of R&D procurement from the EU Directive 2014/24/EU on Public Procurement. It was also mentioned that public authorities have to be careful when classifying contracts as R&D contracts – not only as regards the risk of falling outside the scope of the Directive, but also due to the risk of unjustified use of, or granting of, EU or national funds earmarked for R&D.

The technical working group talked about the need to link the procurement process with actual needs of end users and setting a solid goal for the tender. When it comes to innovative procurement, tenders that include excessive requirements can be burdensome for suppliers, leading some to not even participate in the tendering process, due to fears that all the requirements cannot be satisfied. In terms of electric vehicles, their rapid development, increasing range and charging capabilities, are impacting the procurement process, leading to a limited number of qualified and competitive suppliers. Testing the vehicles takes suppliers a lot of time and afterwards the technology may have advanced further. The importance of procuring adequate and reliable charging infrastructure should not be underestimated, and it would be highly recommended to consider the best options of including it in the same tender and investigate the right setup in advance.

The great outputs of the workshop will be used when drafting SPICE recommendations for public procurers (to be published by the end of the August 2018). The whole SPICE team warmly thanks all the participants for their dedication and willingness to share the experience and knowledge.