Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research

No 2020/1: Functional procurement for innovation, welfare and the environment

Charles Edquist () and Jon Mikel Zabala-Iturriagagoitia ()
Additional contact information
Charles Edquist: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: CIRCLE, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden
Jon Mikel Zabala-Iturriagagoitia: University of Deusto, Postal: Spain

Abstract: Public procurement represents a very large share of most economies worldwide. Besides its direct purchasing power, public procurement has an enormous potential to become one of the most important mission-oriented policy instruments in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. The paper argues that the key to achieve more innovations when pursuing public procurement is to describe problems to be solved or functions to be fulfilled (functional procurement) instead of describing the products to be bought (product procurement). We contend that if products can be described in the procurement documents, it is because they exist, and hence, they cannot be regarded as innovations. Innovations cannot be described ex ante, simply because they do not exist. It is thus not accurate to talk about ‘innovation procurement’. Accordingly, the only way to achieve an innovation by means of procurement is by describing the functions it shall fulfill or the problems it shall solve. For public procurement to become an effective policy instrument supporting innovation, product procurement should thus be transformed into functional procurement. Hence, contracting authorities need to identify the problems to be addressed by policy. The new products (innovations) solving the problems are to be designed by the potential innovators/suppliers, not by public procurers. Hence, the societal needs and problems must be translated and transformed into functional requirements. Functional procurement is allowed in EU regulations, and hence, there are no legal obstacles to use it for innovation policy purposes. Above and beyond, the European directives recommend using functional requirements “as widely as possible”. Besides, it leads to increased competition, not only among potential suppliers of similar products, but also among different products that solve the same problem. Functional procurement thus not only supports innovation but also serves as a powerful instrument of competition policy.

Keywords: innovation policy; public procurement; product procurement; functional procurement; functional requirements; competition policy

JEL-codes: L50; O32; O33; O39

24 pages, First version: January 21, 2020. Revised: July 19, 2020.

Full text files

202001_edquist.pdf PDF-file Full text

Download statistics

Questions (including download problems) about the papers in this series should be directed to Torben Schubert ()
Report other problems with accessing this service to Sune Karlsson ().

This page generated on 2024-02-05 17:12:34.