On 29 March, the Ministry of Defence published its new SME Action Plan, covering the years 2019-2022. The plan outlines the department's intention to increasese its procurement spend with SMEs to 25% by 2022, and details how it will work with its strategic suppliers to remove barriers to supply chain engagement. Since the MOD last revised its SME policy in 2016, there have been a number key reviews in Defence, including a refreshed Defence Industrial Policy, the Combat Air Strategy and the Modernising Defence Programme. All of these have stated the department's intention to better engage SMEs in Defence procurement, but have not identified the means by which this will be done. techUK looks forward to working with the MOD to deliver the outcomes set out in the plan, in order to ensure that Defence has access to cutting-edge technologies developed outside of the sector, and to non-tradtional suppliers working in other industries. We are also pleased to see that the plan emphasises the significant contribution to the UK economy made by SMEs, showing that the department is placing a greater importance on prosperity in the wake of Philip Dunne's 2018 report into the economic contribution of the Defence sector to the wider UK economy.
The plan itself covers four key areas, including:
- Strengthening engagement with the department's strategic suppliers
- Improving procurement policies and processes
- Making it easier to 'do business with Defence' for SMEs and non-tradtional suppliers
- Encouraging innovation in the Defence sector
Several commitments within the plan are of particular interest, including the intention to create a policy which understands how new suppliers view subcontracting, and an intent to push out business opportunities more rapidly to encourage innovation within the sector. The plan also notes that the department will work with the recently-appointed SME Champions within each of its 19 key suppliers. techUK is working closely with the MOD to support this process, to ensure that the group of industry SME Champions delivers genuine value to our SME members working in Defence.
Additionally, through our work within the MOD’s SME Forum, a sub-committee to the Defence Suppliers Forum, techUK will push for delivery against the action plan's commitments with the Minister for Defence Procurement, and will offer our support to achieve this in partnership with the department.