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He works for increased innovation through procurement

Visualization of part of the future Ostlänken railway.
The visualization shows a preliminary design of the Ostlänken, part of the new main lines, in the Boksjö area in Norrköping. It shows the tunnel mouth through the Kolmården escarpment and the E4 highway is visible on the left hand side. Illustrationen by the Swedish Transport Administration
Published Dec 08, 2022

With order volumes of 60 billion annually - around 1 percent of GDP - the Swedish Transport Administration is one of Sweden's largest procurement organizations. Per Erik Eriksson collaborates with the Swedish Transport Administration to increase the level of innovation in contracts between clients and contractors. Sustainability and issues linked to climate goals are increasingly in focus.
"The industry as a whole is starting to take notice and now it's time to take advantage of the sense of urgency. Everyone understands that," says Per Erik Eriksson, visiting professor at the Department of Real Estate and Construction.

Procurement of construction projects and innovation in project-based organizations is how Per Erik Eriksson's research profile can be summarized.

He is a member of the network ProcSIBE - Procurement for Sustainable Innovation in the Built Environment - with 20 affiliated researchers. Per Erik is responsible for a research program together with the Swedish Transport Administration.

"The work in the network has been going on for seven years. An important part of achieving continuous knowledge sharing is the annual results seminar, where results and lessons learned from 10-15 research projects are presented to the Swedish Transport Administration", he explains.

Within the respective research projects, workshops are also organized where the Swedish Transport Administration, together with contractors and technical consultants, can discuss research on road and railway projects. The various projects span the entire life cycle, from planning and design to production and operation & maintenance. Key questions are how the Swedish Transport Administration can promote innovation in different areas, and how the client and supplier can work together to create value in the contracts that govern the projects.

Innovation-friendly model

While traditional procurement focuses on price, procurement that has a sustainability focus often needs a more flexible and innovation-friendly model. Instead of contractors being directed only towards building efficiency by reducing costs and construction time, a broader approach is used to accommodate global climate and sustainability goals.

"To procure better, you must also understand your innovation needs. The sustainability perspective has become more prominent in the last 2-3 years, mainly driven by the political side. The industry as a whole is starting to take notice and now it's time to take advantage of the sense of urgency. Everyone understands that," says Per Erik Eriksson.

Per Erik points out some clear changes that he has seen in recent years. There have been more design-build contracts, which provide flexibility and degrees of freedom for the supplier. At the same time, client organizations have downsized their procurement resources, which means that private actors have to take on greater responsibility. But this development has been reversed at the Swedish Transport Administration, which has increased personnel resources and sharpened procurement skills in recent years. Some procured projects are now being implemented with development content. To promote innovation, the Swedish Transport Administration has started to introduce innovation bonuses in certain contracts, which are realized if innovations are used in the project. An innovation bonus is included in Ostlänken, a 16 km new railway route between Järna and Linköping, and the first part of the new main lines in Sweden. In Ostlänken, technical consultants have proposed several innovations for which they have applied for an innovation bonus.

The illustration shows a preliminary design of the valley of the water course Trosaån and lake Sille
The illustration shows a preliminary design of the valley of the water course Trosaån and lake Sillen. Illustration by Trafikverket.

Innovation over time

"As a large public client, it is important that the Swedish Transport Administration does not just focus on the project level. It is equally important to send a clear signal to the supplier market that they demand innovation over time: If you are going to work with us as a contractor or consultant, you must sharpen your capability to innovate," says Per Erik.

He sees a future where sustainability factors will have a greater impact on procurement, something that more suppliers need to be aware of.

"But everyone doesn't have to be a first mover. You can be part of the change journey even if you follow in others' steps," says Per Erik Eriksson.

Text: Magnus Atterfors

This is the 39th article in the School of Architecture and the Built Environment's series of articles on selected research, education or collaboration initiatives from each department. You can find the previous articles here:  Archive

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Last changed: Dec 08, 2022