Co-creation in contracting for bridges: that does not happen often. The municipality of Almere and the province of Flevoland did it. They launched an open innovative challenge for the Floriade Expo 2022 on 2 April 2019. Three mixed teams of contractors and experts worked separately on the designs for two innovative, circular bridges for the Floriade2022 terrain. Under the guidance of the Noorderwind and Zeewaardig Service Design bureaus, the teams met up on 6 June 2019 for the third sprint of this open innovation procedure.
On this day, the teams could ask questions of the different experts from the client to ascertain how feasible are their innovative ideas for bridge designs with reference to the awarding criteria, permits and the planning of the Floriade.
There was another session held before session 3, on 23 May 2019. In the legal field, there is also room for innovation. In a traditional contracting procedure, the contract is often prepared in advance, and the party awarded the commission must basically accept the contract more or less just as it is. In this new approach, we bring the parties together around a table before the commission is awarded.
The idea is to enable the exchange of wishes and ideas in an open atmosphere to generate understanding of each other’s position and come up with solutions together. The final result was a series of joint ideas about the contract for the commission. Both the contractors and the lawyers greatly appreciated being able to discuss topics at this early stage. The open atmosphere in particular ensured there was room to consult and discuss cares. One important insight derived from the question of whether the lawyers who were participating in this would also be involved in the final commission. That is something that is not always guaranteed, although it is preferable to be working with the same people during the implementation as when discussing the contract, as you both understand the spirit in which the agreements were made, if it should turn out differently in practice. The outcome of this legal session will be processed into a draft contract that the contractors can provide feedback on.
In the third sprint, the expert session, the teams discuss in turn with the experts in the field of permits, the shared digital environment, the planning of the Floriade and the urban planner of the Floriade who also contributed to the bridges passport; one of the conditions to be met in this contracting procedure.
For the expert in the field of permits, it was not usual to be involved in the development at this early stage. He appreciated this because he could point out earlier where there were potential challenges for obtaining a permit so the contractor could already anticipate this before all the plans were definitive.
It was the talk about the bridges passport that was most insightful: the boundaries of the requirements were discussed in depth, what could possibly be accepted and what not. On the other side, the urban planner was delighted with a number of the creative solutions already proposed by the teams.
The ideas of all teams became more concrete between sprints 2 and 3, and this expert session helped the teams to develop their designs further. Most of the participants evaluated this session as extremely useful, and much was clarified. The “openness and clarity” of the experts were greatly appreciated. The appreciation of the co-creation process was the highest on average after this session in comparison with the first sessions.
Talking for an entire day and consulting experts is an intensive process, and the participants were tired at the end of the programme. The feedback was positive: there had been enough time to really discuss the designs in depth and collect useful information from the relevant parties concerning the awarding process. Some even described the day as relaxed.
With the information from the experts, the teams can work towards their definitive design proposals. On 11 July 2019, a last session was held before the final presentation and submission of the development plans during which the teams were stimulated through brainstorming to look at the awarding criteria again from a fresh perspective. The pitfall with a commission like this one is that the innovation may focus on the bridge. The awarding criteria and thus the points to be earned aimed more at, for example, knowledge transmission and the added value of the bridge for the benefits of the Floriade.