Procurement Group X Innovation Exchange: ‘The Art of the Possible’

Constructing Excellence

On Monday 13th May, the Constructing Excellence Procurement & Innovation Exchange groups came together to explore the different ways in which procurement can ignite innovation and unlock limitless possibilities.

We were joined by:

  • Rebecca Rees, who gave an overview of the recently published Art of the Possible report and discussed how the construction industry can harness the Procurement Act 2023 to deliver innovation.
  • Jeremy and Ross of 4C Associates who explored how innovative procurement can be/ has been done in other industries.

The Art of the Possible Report

The Art of the Possible report focuses on the part procurement plays in innovation across the industry through two different lenses:

  1. how you procure innovative solutions in a particular sector
  2. how you use the Procurement Reform to procure innovatively, i.e. how can we use the new flexibility under the rules to procure in an innovative way, which might unlock value or improved outcomes.

The Challenge

Innovative procurement is a challenge because the majority of clients, when procuring an innovative solution, will not know what they are procuring because it’s in a new market/ they’ve never procured it before.

This means that everybody’s learning at the same time, which is difficult in relation to regulation. How do you go out to a market and what market do you go out to when looking at something completely new/different?




How Does the Report Help?

The report goes through the flexibilities that are now present under the Procurement Act and suggests ideas as to how to procure innovation, using the levers under the new act, that doesn’t present barriers to either the client or the contractor.

In the report there are case studies of people procuring innovation and also how procurement processes can be structured in an innovative way to drive at the value that the relevant market can offer them.

How Do We Do Innovation?

Innovation can be incremental, a supply-led change where the market indicates a need for a solution and the supply chain delivers.

However, for real, genuine innovation, we need collaboration and change in the way we contract and in the regulations that drive contracts.

For this, construction needs to change its mindset. Supply-led innovation is a start but requires the right people with the right culture e.g. suppliers selected not just on technical capability, but on alignment,

This will allow the formation of genuine partnerships where this alignment enables mutual benefits to all parties.

Innovation in the procurement process is happening but progress is slow. However, there are some good examples from a range of industries, find out more from 4C Associates’ website.




Key Drivers for Innovation

Procurement Act 2023

This Act is not revolutionary but reiterates, and takes greater lengths to ensure, best practice. Some of the specific points which will encourage innovation are:

  • Single digital platform
  • Duty to consider and remove barriers for SMEs
  • National Procurement Policy Statement
  • MAT not MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender)
  • Greater transparency
  • Competitive flexible procedure

Moving Forward…

The higher the maturity of the procurement capability, the greater the levels of innovation.

Innovation isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ it’s a ‘must’ if we, as an industry, are going to tackle some of the UK’s biggest challenges. We can’t bring about change by doing the same things that we’ve always done, we need a change in mindset.

Legislation alone will not enable us to achieve innovation. To do that, we need strong commercial leaders who embrace and champion innovation and create a culture where it’s OK to move away from the norm.  We need to create a culture where we enable people to try new things and if they don’t work out perfectly first time, that’s OK and we learn from it and try again.



Get Involved

This session was a joint event between the Procurement and Innovation Exchange groups, we have many more events for each of these groups coming up, why not come along?

Procurement Group, 9th September 11:00-12:30

Innovation Exchange, 3rd July 2:00-3:30

Or join us at one of our other events, find out more on our events page.