Public tenders can be great business opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and getting to know how they work is not that complicated.
- Public procurement in the EU accounts for almost 20% of GDP, but its potential to create a market for innovative products and services remains vastly untapped.
- Procurement of innovative products and services can improve access to markets for SMEs and foster market uptake of innovations.
- The Procurement of Innovation Platform is an online hub that helps make use of the power of public procurement of innovation.
This edition of Business Planet goes to Vienna, Austria, to look at how innovative SMEs can have an edge when it comes to clinching public contracts.
Business Planet reporter Serge Rombi visited the Austrian Mint, which churns out some 420 million coins a year — euros but also collectors’ coins and other special mints. The whole process requires a lot of water: 4 million litres each year.
Instead of using freshwater, the Austrian Mint recently installed an environmentally friendly wastewater recycling system provided by Schell GmbH & CO.KG, a family business run by Sonja Schell.
“Our machine cleans the waste water, which can then be used over and over again. This process doesn’t require any chemical product,” she told euronews.
To secure its contract with the Austrian Mint, Schell took part in a tender launched by the national procurement agency.
Manfred Matzinger-Leopold, the executive director of the Austrian Mint, said Schell’s system offered a very good water quality at a reasonable price. “The system was quite easy to install and easy to maintain,” he added.
Schell, which has 20 employees, has installed similar wastewater recycling systems for other mints around the world — from Russia to Poland, Belgium and Egypt.
“Working with the Austrian mint is very important to us. It’s the world’s second biggest maker of coins, a great reference, and we’re very proud,” said Sonja Schell.
Incentives and rewards
“There are a lot of opportunities, especially for innovative small and medium enterprises,” said Andreas Nemec, who heads Austria’s Federal Procurement Agency.
The European Commission has indeed created tools and processes to encourage public procurement of innovative products and services (PPI), and stimulate research and development of innovative solutions before they are commercially available (a process known as pre-commercial procurement).
In fact, the Austrian Mint tender won the 2015 Public Procurement of Innovation Award, a European prize rewarding public procurement practices used to purchase innovative and efficient products or services.
Nemec’s advice to entrepreneurs who want to win public contracts with their novel business ideas? “Communicate! Get in contact with the procurement department of the respective public authority, and promote your idea,” he said.