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Public procurement in fight against COVID-19

6 minute read
The government of Canada is working on speeding up public procurement processes to help the private sector overcome the COVID-19 crisis
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COVID-19 is still haunting and taking a heavy toll on governments. In the midst of this crisis, all eyes are on the private sector which has enormous potential to help governments fight this pandemic. The private sector can produce the essential commodities that will contain the spread of the disease and treat those infected. However, it cannot provide the needed assistance without the support of government regulations, rules, and processes, especially public procurement which is often a very lengthy and routinized process in most countries.

Aware of this gap, the government of Canada has launched a Plan to Mobilize Industry to fight COVID-19 to strengthen its ability to respond to this pandemic swiftly and efficiently. Moreover, the Plan aims at cutting waiting time to implement procurement operations and issue governmental approvals in due course to ensure that the private sector's activities are completed in time. With traditional procurement processes, Canada's innovation leaders struggled to scale up their products and services that support the healthcare system during this critical time.

This Plan primarily aims at refocusing innovation programs like the Strategic Innovation Fund, the National Research Council of Canada, and Innovation Superclusters to facilitate and accelerate the deployment of resources and products by local businessmen, innovators, and manufacturers. The Plan will provide sufficient support for companies that manufacture essential products, such as masks, testing devices, and medical supplies to speed up production while the virus spreads. For its part, the Strategic Innovation Fund is set to deliver support to large-scale projects; the National Research Council of Canada will expedite research and development with small and medium-sized enterprises, and the Innovation Superclusters are being asked to tap into their networks to help companies commercialize products more quickly.

The National Research Council of Canada is set to organize a COVID-19 Challenge Program, composed of teams of government, academic, and private sector partners to address a range of medium-term needs of the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada.  The challenge will focus on generating marketing solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises in need of financial aid from the government in order to refine and sell their products or solutions to meet any needs related to COVID-19 (such as personal protective equipment, sanitization products, diagnostic and testing products, therapeutics, and disease tracking technologies). Moreover, the National Research Council has launched another program to address the challenges arising from the pressing need for R&D in the fight against COVID-19. For its part, the government is calling on companies that can supply products and services to support Canada’s response to COVID-19 to reach out through the government’s Buy and Sell website. After launching this Plan, the government has signed letters of intent with three Canadian health tech companies: Thornhill Medical, Medicom, and Spartan Bioscience. The latter has received official approval to build a diagnostic device capable of producing results within 30 minutes. It can be used in Canadian airports if successful. On another hand, Medicom is gearing up to manufacture medical supplies, such as lab coats and N95 masks.

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