In today’s ever-evolving business environment, private sector organisations are increasingly looking to tap into the potential of the public sector. By using public sector frameworks, suppliers can gain access to the market while saving time and money. Each year, the UK Government spends around £250 billion procuring goods and services from small and medium-sized businesses – but how do you know where to find the opportunities when posted? After reading this blog post, you will know exactly where to look for public sector opportunities suited to your offering and target market.
Understanding the public sector landscape
First things first, as a supplier entering the public sector market, you need to understand how it operates. Unlike in the private sector, the buying process is relatively complex and shaped by various regulations. The public sector comprises diverse organisations, including hospitals, schools, central government, police forces, and universities.
Meeting public sector needs as a supplier has its challenges. This is due to extensive requirements beyond just the purchase transaction. For example, public procurement must offer value for money, support enterprise growth, promote transparency, and support broader government policy. As a result, there are a lot of boxes to tick, and this has made routes traditionally complex. More on current public sector procurement guidelines can be found on the GOV.UK website here.
Despite this, supplying to the public sector can be highly profitable. The UK Government and wider public sector spend over £19 billion on ICT each year, and a significant proportion of this spend goes through public sector frameworks or DPSs. To decipher the two very simply, frameworks are pre-agreed agreements between buyer and supplier and adhere to a set timeframe. A DPS allows new suppliers to join the system at any time, ensuring a dynamic pool of potential partners. Whichever route a public sector body decides to take for its procurement needs, solutions are constantly required. Third-party organisations in the private sector have the means to meet those requirements.
The government also has specific initiatives to help SMEs win business and thrive. For example, central government aim to spend £1 in every £3 on supporting SMEs in its procurement activities, boosting the economy and supporting small business growth.
Unveiling your target market
The second step before you can understand where to look for opportunities suited to you is knowing your target market. Framework providers create new frameworks for almost every industry you can think of. When it comes to selecting a framework, it’s important to understand the different types of products and services that are available. For example, some frameworks may be tailored to specific industries or sectors, while others may be more general in nature.
Check out our Which public sector frameworks are right for me? blog for some insight into the biggest framework providers for each industry!
Knowing where to look for opportunities
Procurement portals are a great place to start looking for opportunities relevant to your industry. Depending on your needs, you can use a private or public procurement portal to help you find high-value contracts from public sector organisations. UK countries each have dedicated public procurement portals, seen below:
- England – Contracts Finder
- Scotland – Public Contracts Scotland
- Wales – Sell2Wales
- Northern Ireland – eTendersNI
Find a Tender Service (FTS) is another of the key ways suppliers can find opportunities. Many high-value public contracts will be published by UK public sector bodies here. FTS replaced the OJEU in the UK after Brexit, but the OJEU still exists.
Direct with Procurement Organisations
You should also check with procurement organisations regularly. We already mentioned framework providers, and Crown Commercial Service are often the most thought of. They’re a great place to start, but they’re not the only one! They help craft the majority of the main frameworks that the UK government and the wider public sector use today. Some of the other biggest in the UK and worth checking out are YPO, NHS SBS, and NHS Supply Chain. But that’s just a few! Each provider will have slight variations in their processes and supplier requirements – so make sure you take that into account when finding the best-fit opportunities for you.
Local government portals and regional initiatives may also have specific platforms or programs dedicated to public sector procurement. Suppliers can explore these to uncover contracts and cater to the needs of specific regions or local authorities. This can also have quite a bit more payoff, building your relationships closer to home and having a positive impact on your local area. Remember, understanding rules and regulations for each region is essential to ensure compliance and maximise your chances of success.
It’s important to do your research and make sure you check back on their pipelines regularly. The ones you should keep an eye on will be dependent on your offering and target market – so make sure you revisit those sections above and do that work before you dive into finding your way in! If you haven’t yet done so, do refer to our other blog ‘Which public sector frameworks are right for me?’ for more insight into various framework providers.
Tender alert services allow you to set up a personalised tender feed and receive email notifications for work you’re interested in whenever a new relevant opportunity is published. Many companies out there offer email alerts about upcoming frameworks (and Dynamic Purchasing Systems). We’ve partnered with Stotles for a few years now to help our clients get notified from bespoke opportunity lists that they create. Signing up for email newsletters should be a key part of your strategy – it can save you so much time running searches yourself!
Building meaningful relationships
Another great way to get notified of new framework opportunities is through industry bodies. For example, in the technology industry, there is techUK. One of the easiest ways to connect with other suppliers and public sector leaders is at events, and techUK frequently hosts various types. One form of event you should definitely try to get to is their online supplier engagement events for upcoming routes to market. Not only will you be kept in the loop as an interested supplier, but you can engage with the creators of routes to market and help shape the future of frameworks.
You will find many more organisations hosting conferences, exhibitions and training courses for suppliers of the public sector. There are many different niche public sector events, trade fairs, conferences and so on, so start by finding out which ones are relevant to your business. A quick look on Google is as good a place to start as any. It’s also worth checking out buyers (if you have their names) on LinkedIn. Many will promote or comment on future events they will be attending.
We also recommend broadening your horizons when looking at events to attend. Networking events are not only a great way to reach public sector professionals, but suppliers just like yourself! Partnering with organisations already working with public sector bodies can help newcomers navigate the space.
So the opportunities are out there, but you need to take action to find and win them. Use this post as a guide, but focus first on searching for current bids via portals and creating alerts aligned with your offerings. Then build out your strategy with ongoing activities like relationship building. With persistence and the right approach, you can successfully partner with the public sector.