Procurement for innovation

One of the game-changing services provided through Cleantech Innovations Geelong, is procurement for innovation, also known as forward commitment procurement.

This innovative method stimulates market demand and supply through public procurement. Using the substantial buying power of public sector procurement, this method is a way to move markets to more sustainable options. Essentially, a public sector procurer establishes a forward commitment to procure a product to respond to a need, which is not yet available on the market.

The forward commitment can be up to three years in the future. By making this commitment, suppliers on the market are assured that if investment in research and development of a response to an unmet need is undertaken, there is a commitment to procure when the public sector buyer goes to tender.

In the United Kingdom (UK), Her Majesty’s Prison Service was spending substantial portions of its annual budget on managing the waste generated from routine mattress replacement. Therefore, a forward commitment was made to procure zero waste mattresses from the market; an innovation which was not already available on the market.

This HM Prison Service forward commitment had a three year deadline. This gave the market the time to research and develop the manufacture of a zero waste mattress which, when HM Prison Service went to tender, the market was able to respond; and a zero waste to landfill mattress is now being procured under contract.

Age defying bridges for a clever and creative city region

Conducting a similar exercise was inspired when our engineers were invited by CSIRO employee, Scott Barnes, to tour the CSIRO/Carbon Nexus site at Waurn Ponds. The tour was followed shortly after by a composites conference and meetings arranged with significant players from the composites design and manufacturing space from across Australia.

Following these events, our engineers used the organisation's procurement processes to establish an innovative solution to solve the annual waste and cost problems caused by repairing and maintaining bridges in recreational spaces. The engineers worked with colleagues in our Procurement team to run a tender for a zero maintenance recreational bridge with a 100+ year design life. We own and manage over 160 bridges, many of these are timber, concrete and steel pedestrian bridges which are in various conditions and present an ongoing maintenance liability. So we were looking for a solution, which could be adapted for a variety of purposes.

The eight suppliers who expressed an interest in this procurement exercise were supported by Cleantech Innovations Geelong to research and develop a solution to the unmet need identified. Links are also made with Geelong based engineers, designers and manufacturers to stimulate economic growth through this procurement exercise.

Tender result...

Made in Geelong, fibre reinforced geopolymer bridges, are the first of their kind and were developed through the first Procurement for Innovation project to be successfully tendered in Australia.

To encourage sustainable innovation in line with its community-led clever and creative vision, we tendered for a 100 year maintenance free pedestrian bridge in 2017. The tender invited companies to come up with solutions to the costly maintenance and waste problem associated with traditional bridges – usually made of timber, steel or concrete - which cost our organisation around $500,000 to inspect, repair, maintain and replace each year.

The winning submission came from a consortium including local manufacturer Austeng, Deakin’s cutting-edge Waurn Ponds Carbon Nexus facility and Australian engineering company Rocla. The consortium undertook research and then developed an innovative new combination of materials resulting in a novel building product made from geopolymer (comprising partly recycled materials) and reinforced with fibre, which is stronger and significantly longer lasting than existing products.

The first two bridges to be replaced with the new design are timber structures over Cowies Creek in Deppler Park (Seagull Paddock).

Pre-construction beam failure testing began in May 2019. The testing showed the geopolymer carbon reinforced beams are 15 per cent stronger than concrete.  Construction has now commenced and a site tour will be hosted, at Seagull Paddock, as part of Geelong Design Week 2021. 

The tender was the first in Australia to be offered using a Procurement for Innovation process. The process can be applied to solve any problems and achieve positive social, environmental and economic outcomes. In this project we used the Procurement for Innovation process to encourage the development and viability of clean technologies – economically viable products that harness renewable materials and energy sources while reducing emissions and waste – using the substantial buying power of public sector procurement.

Along with a commitment to buy a new innovative product which wasn't available on the market, we worked with Cleantech Innovations Geelong to provide a longer than normal deadline for the tender, as well as grants and support for tenderers to invest in research and access international expertise towards their submissions.

The Austeng-led consortium beat seven other tenderers from across Australia, as the most competitive on price, innovation and local content.

Next steps...

In 2019 we embarked on a second Procurement for Innovation process, looking to apply circular economy principles to road infrastructure products.  During 2020 we've been conducting the market engagement phase of the process; working with suppliers to create their innovative responses to this need.  The Tender will be released in 2021. 

We are also developing an e-learning training course, so practitioners in other organisations can learn how to apply the Procurement for Innovation method.  The training course will be available in 2021. 

Page last updated: Friday, 18 December 2020