techUK today launched its, Procuring for Innovation and Growth report which provides recommendations on how to improve SME access to the public sector market. Informed by techUK’s fourth annual Govtech SME Survey, the report explores which mechanisms are working well for govtech SMEs and identifies barriers that still need to be overcome.
Some efforts over recent years to improve SME access to the sector seem to be working, particularly the Digital Marketplace, with 63 per cent of respondents saying that the G-Cloud framework has helped SMEs access the public sector market. On the whole, however, respondents felt not enough progress has been made - 68 per cent said the Government has not acted effectively on its commitment to helping small businesses break into the public sector market. Indeed, it seemed that SMEs were less confident that the situation will improve significantly in the short term, with only 37 per of respondents saying they felt the Government’s 33 per cent SME target is achievable in the next five years, down from 49 per cent in the same survey last year.
The lack of pre-procurement industry engagement, a sub-optimal understanding of how smaller businesses can address public sector needs, and the difficulty in sharing good practice were all highlighted as areas that, if remedied, could make a real difference to SMEs. The public sector needs to harness the expertise and innovation that SMEs can bring in order to ensure that public service delivery keeps pace with demand and expectations.
The report makes the below recommendations for both government and industry to drive the SME agenda forward over the coming years:
Encourage Government buyers to drive more procurement through the Digital Marketplace
Government should adopt a more strategic approach to market engagement and engage with industry outside the procurement cycle
Ensure Government develops better understanding of SMEs and how to work with them
Industry and Government should foster a partnership ecosystem
Evangelise good work through all networks
Henry Rex, techUK’s Head of Central Government, said of the report: “Respondents to our survey were keen to highlight that some initiatives designed to improve SME access to this market that have allowed smaller businesses a chance to compete openly with larger ones for opportunities. However, the overall picture from these results is pretty clear: there is still a great deal to be done to ensure that Government can access the range of capabilities that govtech SMEs can bring. Particularly disappointing is the fact that this year respondents seem to have even less confidence than last that the Government will meet its SME supplier target in the next five years.
“Clearly there is no silver bullet here. If there was one, it would have been used long ago. But I hope that the findings from our survey can add renewed impetus to the SME agenda, and that the recommendations in the report can go some way to improving SME access to the market. If we can get more SMEs supplying to the public sector, we can seize the govtech opportunity and make the UK as well known for govtech as it is for fintech.”
Further details on techUK’s Central Government programme can be found at: https://www.techuk.org/focus/programmes/central-government