In the past it may have been difficult for blue light services to bring on board technologies which are truly cutting edge.
Spark: The Technology Innovation Marketplace is changing that. It was launched in early 2019 following conversations Crown Commercial Service (CCS) held with its stakeholders.
CCS helps organisations across the entire public sector get the best deals on the goods and services they need to run their organisations and it has been at the heart of Spark’s development.
CCS wants all of its customers to have access to the latest products and services, but the organisation recognises that in the emergency services such technologies can be life-saving.
Spark was designed to encourage new, but proven technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI); wearable tech; and the internet of things – where everyday objects can send and receive data.
Spark will enable true innovators, who may for example have developed products through catalysts or catapults, to commercially exploit them by opening them up the entire public sector.
Because it is a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS): suppliers can apply to be part of the marketplace at any time; an unlimited number of suppliers can join; and far less work is required up front by suppliers than would be the case with a framework agreement.
By speaking with customers CCS identified a need for a more open, flexible approach to emerging technology. They wanted to trial in a small, agile manner, with a compliant route to market once they were ready to scale.
But suppliers won’t be able to sell just any new tech product or service. The core ‘backbone’ of the DPS will be a filter system so users can search for products within defined categories developed in consultation with customers.
The emerging technologies CCS has selected are those predicted to have the largest impact over the next five years: the internet of things; AI and automation; simulated and enhanced environments; engineering and materials science; data; wearables; transport; and security. There are further sub-categories within the delivery method (technology) category and products outside these cannot be offered within the DPS.
The customer sign up process is simple and from reaching the homepage customers can apply their filters to shortlist suppliers for their further competition in no more than four steps. That’s an innovation. But the approach CCS is taking is an innovation in itself. It will learn from the process, good and bad, and plans to iterate and improve the agreement.