What is PCP

Pre-commercial procurement (PCP)

Pre-commercial procurement is described in the European Commission’s communication with the title Pre-commercial Procurement: Driving innovation to ensure sustainable high quality public services in Europe (Brussels, 14.12.2007 COM 2007:799 final).

PCP is an approach for acquiring Research and Development services which enable public procurers to:

  • share the risks and benefits of designing, prototyping and testing of new products and services with the suppliers and other stake-holders such as the end-users
  • create the optimum conditions for wide commercialization and take-up of R&D results through standardization and/or publication
  • pool the efforts of several procurers.

Pre-commercial procurement gives an opportunity to develop different ideas in parallel where one, or few of the initial ideas will eventually be selected for commercial public procurement in accordance with the Procurement Directives.

Pre-commercial procurement start earlier in the innovation cycle of a product than a more conventional procurement project would do. It is also a competitive process where solutions are step-vise selected or abandoned. The first phase in pre-commercial procurement may involve a pre-study or ‘solution exploration’ where several different solutions are explored. A second phase may include prototype development of the solutions that are judged most promising. This can be followed by the development of a small test-batch of some of the remaining solutions. Eventually one or few of the remaining solutions are selected for commercial roll-out.

Pre-commercial procurement is an interesting attempt to highlight existing possibilities for public agencies to procure innovation within existing legal frameworks. However, the approach is still relatively untried in practice. In order to change that situation, the European Commission is conducting different promotion activities encouraging pre-commercial procurement.