Group led by Cambridge University to launch joint procurement strategy to save millions in construction costs

Universities across England are to launch a joint procurement strategy to cut millions from the cost of construction work on their estates.

A group led by Cambridge University has been set up to develop framework agreements based on Procure21, the NHS’ procurement model.

The move is the first sign that the Procure21 could be rolled out across government departments. This could prove significant at a time when the Office for Government Commerce is seeking to control construction procurement centrally.

At an annual conference, more than 100 university estate directors gave unanimous support to the joint approach.

The plans are being developed in conjunction with industry body Constructing Excellence in the Built Environment, which aims to develop a series of similar strategies for other client groups. Dennis Lenard, CEBE chief executive, said the higher education sector could save up to 25% by streamlining its procurement process.

Lenard said: “Joint procurement along the lines of Procure21 can offer other sectors benefits. The universities could reap huge rewards from the method.”

The universities could reap huge rewards from this method

Dennis Lenard, CEBE

Under the proposals, universities would be able to draw on collective framework agreements to find contractors to work on their estates. The agreement, which would operate on a voluntary basis, would be open to public sector universities as well as those that receive more than 50% of their funding from the private sector, which do not have to go through the European Union tendering process.

The approach is being lauded as a way to guarantee that universities find competent contractors. Lenard said: “This approach means there is a supply chain ready to do the work, which is important given the huge pressure placed on the industry.”

Lenard added that the group would put its plans into a document to present to the government bodies involved in university management. He said the group aimed to be rolling out the scheme by the end of the calendar year.

David Adamson, chairman of the universities group and estates director at Cambridge University, said the drive to improve efficiency had been spurred by the recent National Audit Office report into public procurement. He said: “People have been looking around to see how procurement can be enhanced. We will be looking at Procure21 to see if that would be relevant.”