Public procurement should become the driver of new technology developments and the main vehicle for economic recovery, Malcolm Harbour, the new head of the European Parliament’s internal market committee, told EURACTIV in an interview.
Reviewing public procurement procedures at EU level will be one of the Parliament’s “crucial” internal market priorities in the years to come, the UK Conservative MEP said.
“We have to encourage public buyers, who are buying infrastructure, energy solutions and so on, to be much more ambitious in using that investment to encourage new technologies and new business,” Harbour told EURACTIV.
He cited a review of the security systems for dykes in the Netherlands as an example: instead of simply asking contractors to apply to provide the service, the Dutch government issued a specific tender to find alternative solutions for improving regular security checks.
A whole host of new technological solutions were proposed, putting forward a variety of possible means to address the issue, including satellite mapping, sensors and other innovative ideas.
“But what is interesting in that process is that companies who haven’t been funded have in many cases gone on and sold their ideas to somebody else, because they may not have been perfectly suited to monitoring the dykes, but they are actually quite good at monitoring street lighting or whatever,” explained Harbour.
Thanks to this spin-off effect, it is also clear that by adopting this approach to public procurement, “what you have done is use public capital to energise businesses to produce new ideas. You help fund the development stage to get that idea moving forward, and they can then take that and develop it into a sellable product,” argued Harbour.
“These are the sort of practical things that we should be doing in response to a recession,” he concluded.
The new chair of the internal market committee will also focus on reviewing consumer credit rules (with the aim of harmonising national systems), the textiles sector, the goods package and mutual recognition of professional qualifications, he told EURACTIV.