The Treasury is looking to infrastructure groups Laing and Serco to pioneer "project delivery organisations", a PFI concept that would transfer some of the public sector's management responsibility to private firms.
The news emerged after the Treasury published a document last week that made radical recommendations to improve the PFI, including the introduction of equity competitions and greater procurement training for the public sector.
A source close to the Treasury said there were few firms that had the skills necessary to bid to become a project delivery organisation. The source said the Treasury believed Serco and Laing were two of the few firms that had the skills to fill this role. He added that the government was hoping that more would develop the necessary expertise if the work proved to be lucrative.
Adrian Ewer, finance director at Laing, said:
"If the Treasury want to come and talk to us about it, then they can come and talk to us."
The Treasury's document has received support from contractors. John Spanswick, Major Contractors Group chairman, said: "The most important thing is that the government has sent a message that it will continue the PFI. However, we would like to see the specific timing of when the next hospitals are going to be released."
Stephen Ratcliffe, Construction Confederation chief executive, said: "This is music to our ears."
But some of the report's recommendations have angered PFI players. The suggestion that there should be debt and equity competitions was viewed as "quite negative" by one banker.
The government has sent a positive message that it will continue the PFI
John Spanswick, MCG
At the moment banks are part of bidding consortiums, but the report suggested that they should bid against each other in a separate competition. Simon Hipperson, chief executive of Skanska's infrastructure development, said the company had successfully used this model in the past. He said: "On the debt side we have run a funding competition already on the St Bartholomew's and Royal London Hospitals scheme. We helped develop the process and it delivered value for the public sector."
The Treasury also held open the possibility of changing the design process for PFI projects. The RIBA and CABE have been invited by Richard Abadie, the Treasury's PFI director, to help rewrite the policy on this.
The invitation was offered two weeks ago in a meeting between Abadie and Jack Pringle, the RIBA president, who said rewriting the Treasury's "note 7" would take place within six months.
Pringle welcomed the Treasury publication: "Pretty much all our proposals on Smart PFI have been adopted. The Treasury's revised policy will produce higher design standards and more accurate outcomes. It will also reduce risk by gaining outline planning permission in advance."
As for funding agencies, Pringle accepted that they would need to have the proposals explained more carefully. "It will be cheaper for them to bid. So far PFI projects have cost an average of £22m to bid, and this is not good value for money."