IPEC Research

Our ambition is to deepen understanding of the effectiveness of innovation procurement in driving innovation for better public services while boosting economic growth. Working with regional and local authorities we can disseminate best practice and empower local decision makers.

Overview of IPEC research

UK public authorities spend some £300bn on goods, services, and works each year. This funding has massive untapped potential to stimulate innovation, drive growth across the economy, add social value and nurture pioneering suppliers.

With the launch of the UK Innovation Strategy in 2021, and the Innovation, Science and Technology Framework in 2023, deploying public procurement as a driver of innovation has been recognised as a central UK policy objective. The 2024 Framework update said “We know that public procurement is a powerful lever to drive innovation nationally and nurture creativity and growth in local business communities”. However, as the Strategy spells out “the overall culture, expertise and incentive structure of the public sector means there is a low appetite for risk and experimentation”.

In May 2021, the Connected Places Catapult, the University of Birmingham, and the University of Manchester formed the Consortium for Research in Innovative and Strategic Public Procurement (CRISPP) to tackle one of the underlying causes of this weak appetite for risk. While there is a deep body of research on procurement law, there is little quantified data on the innovation procurement process to guide decision makers.

The launch of the Innovation Procurement Empowerment Centre in 2023 is a major step forward in support for the public sector to unlock this value through procurement-powered innovation. The CRISPP work is being expanded with an enhanced role as IPEC Research. Our ambition is to deepen understanding of the effectiveness of innovation procurement in driving innovation for better public services while boosting economic growth. Working with regional and local authorities we can disseminate best practice and empower local decision makers.

“The Innovation Procurement Empowerment Centre supports public sector leaders in creating value through procurement-powered innovation. Facing a multitude of challenges, the need to do more with less has never been so important. To solve their challenges, they must encourage innovators at all stages of their journey – start-ups, scale-ups, academic spin-outs, venture capitalists and corporate open innovation teams. 

It’s vital that we do this through building a strong evidence base, identifying the potential and demonstrating the results. This is why I am so excited about IPEC Research, chaired by Malcolm Harbour, bringing together our founding partners, Connected Places Catapult, the University of Birmingham and University of Manchester. They will provide the solid foundation from which IPEC can deliver its ambitions.

Rikesh Shah, Head of IPEC, Connected Places Catapult

With 2 years work behind us, our expert team are already making an impact. With our base in two major cities, working with leading regional economists, we are especially focused on the role of procurement in boosting innovative communities.

We are continually collecting and analysing data to quantify the impact of innovation procurement. We are identifying best practice lessons and sharing their results. We are encouraging public sector procurement teams and their leaders to seek new ways of delivering public services. We engage with innovative companies – especially small enterprises – to help them exploit their innovative ideas that will improve public services. We look across the world for best practice, reaching out to academic experts and institutes for ground-breaking insights and research.

Malcolm Harbour, Associate Director, Connected Places Catapult, Chair of IPEC Research

Our research partners

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Manchester Institute of innovation Research (MIoIR)

Manchester Institute of innovation Research (MIoIR) is a centre of excellence in the field of innovation studies based at the Alliance Manchester Business School. In the area of research and innovation policy, the Institute has in recent years contributed to the conceptualisation and analysis of public procurement as a demand side policy instrument (see here our research impact in this area). 

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City REDI (University of Birmingham)

City REDI is a leading evidence-based and policy-focused academic research institute at the University of Birmingham, focused on inclusive economic, social, and environmental development. They partner with communities to promote local and regional growth.

Researchers in residence

Researcher in Residence (RiR) is an initiative developed by The Innovation Launchpad Network+, Innovate UK, EPSRC and Catapult Network. The scheme supports UK strategic goals, promotes academic engagement and is designed to enable researchers to work with the Catapults, undertaking a project or activity in an area of strategic importance. Successful applicants are awarded up to £50k to cover university salary costs, travel and accommodation during the placement, and consumables used at the host Catapult.

researcher

Dr Ian Heptinstall

researcher

Dr Luis Torres

researcher

Dr Katherine Sugar

Meet our research team

Rikesh Shah

Head of Innovation Procurement Empowerment Centre

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Malcolm Harbour

Associate Director

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Nick Woodward

Academic Engagement Manager

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Prof Elvira Uyarra

Executive Director

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Prof Fumi Kitagawa

Chair in Regional Economic Development

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