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techUK points to barriers between government and SMEs



Survey highlights continuing problems for small IT companies in selling to government

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry are still hindered by cultural and supply chain problems in doing business with the public sector, according to a survey published this week by industry association techUK.

The views of 171 respondents in Procuring for Innovation and Growth: Making the case for British based SMEs indicates that there are still significant barriers despite the government's increase in the target for spending with smaller suppliers. 

In September, Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock announced an increase in the target of new procurement spend to SMEs to 33% by 2020, an increase from the 25% target set by the previous government. But the survey highlighted there is plenty more work to do if government is to meet its aim, revealing three major barriers.

Culture problems

Firstly, Civil Service culture and capability is “holding back a diverse and effective supply chain”. Nearly all respondents (96%) thought that civil servant buyers did not have a good understanding of how SMEs can meet their needs.

Secondly, 96% of SMEs surveyed thought that government should be doing more to improve their experience of the supply chain and that this could be achieved by tackling poor procurement practices.

Thirdly, respondents said there be a greater focus on the promotion of the tools that were designed by government for SMEs. Some 86% of those surveyed had never used the Mystery Shopper service - which provides a route for suppliers to raise concerns about public procurement - and 62% did not think that Contracts Finder has helped small businesses to access opportunities. In addition, 78% of respondents were unaware of the Cabinet Office’s SME Panel.

In response, techUK recommended that it works with the Crown Commercial Service to promote awareness and capture user feedback to improve these services, and to “improve the ecosystem by tackling unintended barriers that inhibit collaboration”.

Innovation and expertise

"We know that small businesses can be highly innovative and have the expertise we need to secure more value for the public sector”, said Sally Collier, chief executive officer of Crown Commercial Service in a statement.

“That's why government is changing the way it does business to open up public sector procurement to more small businesses. Already, 26% of government spend flows directly and indirectly to small businesses”.

Naureen Khan, associate director of the public sector unit of techUK (pictured), said: “There are now more opportunities than ever before for small and growing firms to access the government’s billion pound public sector procurement market”.

But she added that the next phase must focus on raising awareness and use of existing online procurement tools, and suggested that “government and industry work together for better collaboration through the supply chain”.

The report kicked off techUK’s ‘SME week’ which endeavours to raise awareness of the issues highlighted by the survey findings and boost take up of Government’s procurement tools aimed at SMEs, including G-Cloud.


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