Articles United Kingdom
27 March 2023 5 mins read

What’s the Innovation Partnership procedure?

We were intrigued to help a client recently on their approach to an Innovation Partnership response, which is a relatively unusual procedure in the public sector bidding world.

illustration of people carrying a lightbulb to denote innovation

What is an Innovation Partnership?

For context, public sector bidding follows set procedures that determine how the purchasing body goes to market. Those procedures set things like timescales, process, minimum numbers of bidders, who is allowed to bid, and what forms need filling out when. The three kinds we see the most of are:

1. Open — anyone can go for these bids, and they’re simple and fast

2. Restricted — these are limited to only certain suppliers, and it’s a simple process

3. Competitive (Dialogue or Negotiation) — both are complicated and time-consuming.

What is not seen often is the Innovation Partnership. The Innovation Partnership is aimed at the development of new and innovative products or services. So if you want to buy something that doesn’t exist on the market, this is a way you can encourage

suppliers to invest in the R&D needed to develop the new thing, which is usually either a product or service.

The public body can enter into a long-term contract with a supplier to develop the new product or service, and then procure the new thing once it’s developed. This gives the supplier certainty that they will be able to sell the result, and can involve payment for development too.

How does an Innovation Partnership bid work?

If you want the precise details, you can find it in Regulation 31, but Innovation Partnership bids are largely the same as Competitive Dialogue, if you’re familiar with that. It’s a less proscriptive procedure than the others, so you really want the purchaser to know what they want and how they want to run the process in detail. It’s a process that looks a little like this:

  • PIN — meaning we’re coming to market for some innovation
  • SQ or another expression of interest – we’d like a shortlist, please fill this form out (and probably here’s a draft ITT)
  • Shortlisting those who will be invited to participate
  • Tender invitation — proposals please for these minimum requirements
  • Evaluation — Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) as usual
  • Negotiation to improve the content of proposals, update technical specs as needed
  • Final tender, or maybe more rounds of negotiation
  • Preferred, standstill, contract — one or more (unusually) partners can be picked to go to contract for a two-phase delivery
  • Development of the new product or service — following R&D steps with set payment points and the ability to terminate if it’s not going well
  • Purchase of the resulting product or service — assuming it meets target performance and cost requirements.

Things to think about as a bidder

It’s always interesting to do something a bit different, so embrace any chance you get at being involved with an Innovation Partnership bid. Spend a little time thinking about the implications of the procedure and subject-matter.

Given the nature of the subjects and R&D in general, special consideration should be made around what you consider your Confidential Information, and how you want to handle the control of it. Selection has to pay special attention to bidders’ capacity in the field of R&D and development of innovative solutions. So if you don’t have the credentials this may not be for you.

Extra tips and things to think about:

  • Intellectual Property terms are contentious at the best of times, so read those terms closely
  • Expect collaboration, even with the competition
  • Not many customers or bidders have extensive experience in the procedure, so find someone who knows what they are doing.

At BidCraft, we understand what you’ll need to go for an Innovation Partnership bid. Get in touch to find out more about how we can support you.