EU Public Procurement Policy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Pushing and Pulling as One?

15 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2019

Date Written: August 6, 2019


Innovation in digital technologies is triggering a variety of regulatory and policy responses by the EU. Fostering innovation is at the core of the EU’s industrial strategy and public procurement is becoming one of its main tools. The EU has reactivated its efforts to promote (digital) innovation procurement and is harnessing procurement market access as a trade defence for its innovation industry. The EU is clearly trying to use its buying power as an innovation pull to increase the readiness of the EU’s economy for the fourth industrial revolution. However, this effort is somehow constrained by the Member States’ diverging approaches and levels of engagement.

At the same time, innovative digital technologies hold the promise of a significant impact in the governance and practice of public procurement, and the EU is pushing for digitalisation as a lever to improve public services and to facilitate data analysis experimentation. However, a much-delayed and patchy implementation of eProcurement in most Member States and an inconsistent and timid approach to the regulation of public procurement data stand in the way of a true revolution and can prevent the public sector from leading by example.

In this paper, I reflect on the tensions inherent to this dual use of public procurement as an innovation pull through market power and trade leverage, and as a push for the digitalisation of procurement in the EU, as well as on the tensions between EU and Member State responses.

Keywords: Public procurement, innovation, industrial policy, digital technologies, procurement data

JEL Classification: H57, K23, L50

Suggested Citation

Sanchez-Graells, Albert, EU Public Procurement Policy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Pushing and Pulling as One? (August 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Albert Sanchez-Graells (Contact Author)

University of Bristol - School of Law ( email )

Wills Memorial Building
Queen's Road Clifton
Bristol, BS8 1RJ
United Kingdom


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