Dear Nick: 30% collaborative spend is vital – and GeM can help


Your focus on encouraging universities to move towards the magical Diamond Report figure of 30% collaborative spend is hugely important. What is more, it is already happening because of one sector-defining tool: GeM. So said Richard Haggerty in his open letter to Nick Petford, following his keynote speech at COUP (9 – 11 September 2013).

Dear Nick,

I enjoyed meeting and talking with you immediately after your excellent keynote speech at COUP in September. As requested, here is my follow-up.

Like you, one wonders why some people do not see the value in buying from pre-approved suppliers on frameworks and getting the best deal possible for their institution.

What would it be like if universities started increasing collaborative spend in earnest, and there was a user-friendly tool to do that simply and easily?

One university has already achieved 22.5 % collaborative spend – in well under two years. This is Huddersfield University which embraced the GeM system early on. They made substantial headway by telling their users to do one thing: use the online procurement system to buy on contract.

The Huddersfield experience highlighted one essential prerequisite for increasing collaborative spend: the message needs reinforcement, commitment and that needs to come from the top.

GeM contains all the national regional contracts for all six regional purchasing consortia, and is the only place where institution users can access them. We have 619 different colleges, universities and other prestigious institutions like the National Theatre who use the system.

To take one recent example: the National Theatre saved £8,000 against its old non-contracted supplier by placing its first order for 90 PCs using GeM.

GeM is the practical tool that would allow universities to implement the vision of increased collaborative spend and it is free to use. GeM is always accessed online at and has three integrated yet distinct parts:

  1. the contracts database with all the contracted suppliers
  2. the Amazon-like eMarketplace to buy from
  3. the request for quote system integrated with suppliers, which allows purchasers to carry out quotes against an agreement easily and quickly.

We know it takes time to change purchasing behaviour in the schools and departments in each institution, but with an advocate who has the ear of vice chancellors, the procurement teams would have the mandate and motivation to consistently send communications within their institutions. This approach helps with changing purchasing culture and enables more uptake of the excellent frameworks that regional purchasing consortia have negotiated.

Speaking to suppliers at COUP, one of the biggest concerns is making sure that universities stop buying from non-contracted suppliers and online retailers and instead use the sector-negotiated frameworks.

I would be happy to arrange to come and speak with you because of the mutual aim to increase collaborative spend, and we could discuss how your vision complements what we already are doing at grass roots level.

Thank you again for a truly thought-provoking keynote.

Warm regards,

Richard Haggerty, GeM