Portuguese National Conference on Innovation Capabilities in the Water Sector

Within the scope of WG4 – Training for regional development and job creation, more specifically WG 4.2. the organization of 3 national events was defined, with the objective of addressing the innovation capacities of agents in the water sector, boosting cooperation and the network in the sector, as well as making available training materials on Innovative Public Procurement developed and other public results from the project.

In Portugal, on June 24th, the Conference was held under the theme “Living Labs and Public Procurement of Innovation in the Water Sector”, in online format due to the current pandemic situation, jointly organized by PPA, ISA, IST, AdTA and ADRAL, Portuguese partners in the project.

The conference took place according to a program that was structured in the following panels:

  • Opening the session
  • Presentation of the TWIST Project
  • UL3: Urban Lisbon Living Lab
  • Virtual Roundtable: “Public Purchasing Innovation in the Water Sector”

Participants were invited to intervene during the session, particularly during the roundtable. The session was highly participated.

The debate on Public Procurement of Innovation in the Water Sector deserved several interventions by the participants, not only from public institutions but also from companies.

The application of the Public Procurement of Innovation process in Portugal is practically non-existent in all sectors of activity. There is not even knowledge on the part of the entities involved, whether institutions or companies, of the different modalities of Public Procurement, so it will be necessary to significantly increase the dissemination and training on this topic.

Larger companies that participated in the workshop, namely Siemens, mentioned that they have been able to obtain funding to carry out innovation development processes, together with institutional partners and universities. However, they are lengthy and bureaucratic processes.

Xylem also mentioned that it is very common at an international level to have close collaboration between private management entities and companies. The fact that the entities involved are all private greatly simplifies collaboration between them.

A barrier to public contracting of small companies was identified, which concerns the high requirements present in public contracts, in terms of number of employees and previous experience in implementing solutions. The company Wakaru stated that despite having received P2020 funding to develop an innovative product, due to its size and the innovative character of the product it developed, with few implemented examples, it is not eligible to compete in competitions where this product could be used.

The company Moinhos Ambiente also mentioned partnerships with management entities for the development of innovative solutions, but without applying for external financing.

Eng. Carlos Martin referred that one of the obstacles in a public contract is the ease of justifying the choice for the lowest price proposal, which avoids disagreement with the Court of Auditors. This situation makes it difficult to opt for innovative solutions that may be more suitable, but are not selected because they are more costly.