Decision-makers increasingly mention public-private partnerships (PPPs) as potential tools for innovation in the public sector.
In the broadest terms PPPs can be defined as ‘co-operative institutional arrangements between public and private sector actors’ (Hodge & Greve 2009).
PPPs are increasingly mentioned in government programs or strategies in relation to innovation, for instance in Denmark, where the 2011 government platform of the S-R-SF government mentions partnerships as a central tool for ‘new solutions’ (The Government Platform 2011, p. 7-8), or in the UK, where partnership has been linked strongly to the Labour government’s modernization agenda (Blair 1998, p. 13, from Entwistle & Martin 2005).
Although PPPs also promise an alternative way of managing public services that should provide a better combination of public and private strengths (Hodge & Greve 2009, p.545), especially contractual PPPs could be related to ideas of delegating public tasks to a more efficient private sector, but also less formally bound cooperation could be related to ideas of placing specific bodies in arm’s lengths of their mother organizations (Klijn 2010).
When the public has increased expectations for timely and high standard service delivery, the responsibility is on the government to find innovative approaches to meet those expectations. Entering into a partnership with the private sector for major public capital projects is one of them.
PPPs are being established not only to provide finance for public infrastructure, but also to explore the private sector’s management, commercial and creative skills. Only when the strengths of the public and the private sectors are combined will these major public capital projects be delivered on time and on budget and the government will achieve ‘value for money’ (Nisar, 2007).
The potential benefits of PPPs are significant. In order for these benefits to be accomplished the concept needs to be modified to embrace the principles of enhanced and the focus should be placed on learning from previous experience and implementing changes on a regular basis due to the fact that economic conditions constantly change.