An era of innovation for Purchasing Departments

Published on 19 January 2024

Major French groups have a complicated relationship with the innovation-driving start-up ecosystem when it comes to collaboration, which is why BPI is pinning its hopes on Purchasing to bridge these two worlds. These departments undeniably have a macro perspective and act as intermediaries between decision-makers, business sectors and innovative suppliers.

To achieve this reconciliation, the BPI has developed an innovation acceleration programme, with two objectives: to strengthen the innovation culture of Purchasing Departments within companies, and to establish them as front-line contributors to their organisation's innovation strategy. With this in mind, SPIE's Group Purchasing Department and the French Purchasing Department have decided to opt in. 

Sophie Macquet, the Group Purchasing Director behind the initiative, explains everything.

What are the pitfalls for major groups when working with start-ups?

Exposure to a certain level of risk is inevitable when working with these types of companies. A start-up's product is rarely the finished article, and start-ups are reliant on a major group to achieve scale, with no guarantee of success. Pitfalls include the product's price rising unexpectedly or the start-up itself being non-viable. All these unknown factors discourage Purchasing Departments from considering start-ups in these circumstances. 

Why join the BPI programme now?

Many of these companies are focusing on the green transition and are therefore of potential interest to us as they can provide fresh ideas. However, "buying innovation" can be a struggle for Purchasing Departments so we don't automatically approach them. Joining this programme, which helps shape relationships with start-ups, therefore makes perfect sense in this case. It's an initiative that is very much in step with the approaches advocated by our Strategy & Business Development departments who are encouraging and boosting internal innovation.  

They do believe that the expertise our teams possess, combined with the creativity of start-ups and an innovative approach towards solving problems, are vital for creating value for our employees, customers and suppliers. 

It's also a partnership where everybody wins. As a major group, we have a role to play in helping start-ups to flourish and ensuring their long-term development, and in return they provide us with valuable innovative input

Which needs are met by the programme?

The programme should enhance my department's ability to integrate start-up solutions. I previously mentioned that we are not familiar with working with start-ups under such unusual purchasing conditions: internally promoting an initiative I deem relevant requires time that we must be prepared to give to the start-ups. The world of major groups is foreign to the young entrepreneurs that lead these start-ups, and we don't always speak the same language. But this is learned behaviour, and it is precisely what I expect to gain from the programme: an improvement in the way my department interacts with start-ups with the aim of providing SPIE with innovations that meet the energy transition needs of implementers or allow us to upgrade our own indirect purchasing processes (travel, vehicles, employee equipment, etc.), for example.

A final word?

For this inaugural DAPI programme (Directions Achats Pour l'Innovation – Purchasing Departments for Innovation), we are working with Schneider, GRTgaz, L'Oréal, La Poste and other excellent companies. 

Speaking more generally, I would be delighted to receive enquiries that could lead us to discover start-ups we can work with and include in the programme!