What the new government procurement rules could mean for the UK's startup and tech sector

Last week, the Cabinet Office published the 'Transforming public procurement' Green Paper. This paper contains an ambitious set of new proposals for the UK's future post-Brexit procurement approach.

Last week, the Cabinet Office published the 'Transforming public procurement' Green Paper. This paper contains an ambitious set of new proposals for the UK's future post-Brexit procurement approach, open to public consultation until 10 March 2021.

Procurement is not always seen as the most glamorous topic: and can seem remote and esoteric for startups, technologists, and entrepreneurs. But PUBLIC has taken a deep interest in procurement for a long time: and we have long championed the importance of greater flexibility and innovation in procurement to transform public services. Our recent playbook co-created with LOTI, represents our latest attempt to fuse innovation and procurement together.

So, I was delighted last year to be invited to join the Cabinet Office's Procurement Transformation Panel - a panel of expert academics, lawyers, international leaders and suppliers - to contribute towards shaping the UK's future procurement approach after it leaves the European Union. This panel has worked with teams of dedicated specialists in the Cabinet Office and beyond to design a radical and ambitious Green Paper: and I think we can be proud of our efforts.

As the paper sets out, the opportunity at hand for the UK is to designed a modernised and simplified procurement regulatory framework within the lighter-touch WTO General Procurement Agreement. As widely noted (by Arrowsmith and others), the GPA represents a high-level set of 'principles' rather than a comprehensive set of rules.

For anyone who deals with procurement (especially startups and SMEs), my strong advice is to get involved with the consultation: this is a generational opportunity to drive innovation in public services, and create a world-leading approach in the UK.

Over the coming weeks, we will be releasing a series of articles examining some of the key proposals within the Green Paper: especially in the context of what this might mean for technology and innovation in the public sector. Amongst other things, the paper includes bold reforms relating to:

  • Introducing a new 'flexible procedure'

The flexible procedure would replace to the Innovation Partnership, Design Contest and Competitive Dialogue, with high levels of commercial flexibility for authorities: essentially reflecting the approach currently permitted within the 'Light Touch Regime'.

  • Allowing multi-stage procurements, including technology demos and testing

The flexible procedure could contain scope for modern, technology-first procurement practices, such as reverse auctions, sprints, product demos and pitch decks.

  • Overhauling the use of frameworks

The paper contains radical proposals for a new 'open framework', which contains and pre-designated opportunities for suppliers to join once a framework has been let. This could capture the spirit of G-Cloud and DOS in all public frameworks.

  • Extending the use of Dynamic Purchasing Systems

Dynamic Purchasing Systems have grown in popularity in recent years: and the Green Paper proposes to extend their use to cover a larger proportion of commodity goods and services frameworks. The stated ambition is to create the conditions for 'dynamic online marketplaces'.

  • A stronger focus on innovation, including SBIR and PCP

The paper also calls for suggestions and ideas relating to how processes like SBIR and 'innovation labs' can be better enshrined in guidance and best practice. Take a look at our LOTI playbook for some ideas here.

We will deep-dive into these topics and more, including laying out some of our recommendations for how these proposals can deliver maximum impact.If you would like to discuss what these reforms could mean, want to share ideas or proposals, or otherwise champion the UK's technology sector, get in touch with us.


Johnny Hugill
Head of Research and Intelligence

Sep 20, 2021