In Japanese the word “crisis“ poses two meanings within: “danger” and “opportunity”. The same sentiment can be applied towards the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on innovation public procurement (IPP). The virus has threatened everyday routine of public institutions, including the public procurement activities. Yet, it also paves the way for IPP to be more widely accepted and utilised in the aftermath of the crisis.
On one hand, the coronavirus and various measures adopted to stop its spread have affected public procurement processes in a sense that many procedures have been paused, stopped, delayed or even cancelled. Also, simplified regular procurement procedures for acquiring very much needed medical equipment, protective remedies and special clothing have been prioritised over more complicated ones that aim at obtaining pandemic-unrelated complex innovative solutions. Acquiring an innovation has become a secondary if not the tertiary issue to many public institutions lacking basic means to fight the virus.
On the other hand, the crisis has also demonstrated a drastic need for innovative solutions to cope with many restrictions applied by authorities as well as ensure safety from the COVID-19 itself. What is more, even if and when the crisis is over, many of the newly established solutions will be needed to meet freshly formed expectations, habits and needs from the society side. And this where the public institutions will have to go for IPP, in order to obtain solutions that have not been even thought of yet or maybe are in an early development stage by some entrepreneur.
Of course, it is naïve to expect that the general attitude towards IPP will change in a brief moment of time and public institutions will all of the sudden indulge themselves in this type of procurement, however, the crisis might encourage or push them to think of this option more often and that is already a an accomplishment. It may start with pandemic-related issues at first, but eventually, if successful, could spill over to many other fields of public sector domain.
Despite many dangers the COVID-19 has brought on a daily life, it can also become a very much needed push for public sector to start initiating innovations rather than just using uninventive old solutions.