Supplier-Enabled Innovation (SEI) recently has been touted in the private sector as having the potential to revolutionize procurement. But what is it?
SEI is a concept: that a procurement process can be used to dramatically increase the amount of research and development work being done on behalf of a procuring entity – by tapping into the capabilities and innovations of the entity’s supplier community.
In the federal government procurement context this means that contracting agencies have an opportunity to orchestrate and take advantage of R&D activity that can emerge from their supplier networks. While it may seem obvious that our government should be tapping into these kind of resources, it isn’t. Indeed agencies often cannot recognize, let alone promote and take advantage of, supplier innovation.
The challenge is for contracting officials to find a way to connect the innovation needs of their agency “customers” with outside suppliers in a way that fosters innovation – to link the capabilities that suppliers possess with internal agency-stakeholder needs. One key way to accomplish this goal would be to draft specific, proactive, targeted solicitations that expressly call for, evaluate and value meaningful innovation.
In short, within existing acquisition structures, contracting officers could explore ways to match agency needs for SEI in their products with the suppliers who provide SEI. This, in turn, could maximize the innovation delivered to government on specific, concrete agency challenges.
Lindsay Simmons is responsible for the contents of this Short Take.
© Jackson Kelly PLLC 2015