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Cameron urges civil service to innovate

The government must do more to combat the risk averse culture in the civil service to ensure procurement innovation is encouraged, prime minister David Cameron said on Friday.

Speaking at the G8 Innovation Conference in London Cameron said that while the UK was generally “comfortable” with innovation, as demonstrated by the country’s early adoption of technology, there was more the government could do in procurement.

“We are innovative and we are open to it as a society,” he said.

But he added: “Just a government saying we want to open up procurement to small businesses and we have an aim to do that is not enough. You have to try and change the culture.”

He explained that often civil servants letting contracts would be more comfortable dealing with large names.

“Obviously if you’re the civil servant letting the contract, there’s that voice in your head … ‘well it’s safer if I do the deal with Capita or PricewaterhouseCoopers’ - it’s a safer bet.

Cameron added that one way to trigger a culture change will be to continue to break larger contracts into smaller packages.

“I think we have to create a culture in the civil service where we are prepared to take some more risks,” he said. “Sometimes it means breaking up contracts into smaller parts, which is what we’ve done with IT.

“But it does mean a culture of a little bit more risk taking and it also means adopting that sense which is always there in principle that if you fail with one of these things that is not somehow a disaster, that is part of the process of getting it right. So government needs to change a bit there.”

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