03 Nov 2023
by John Cheal

techUK and Government Procurement: Bridging the gap for SMEs

Government Procurement is a topic of obvious importance and great interest to TechUK members, with particular focus for SME members who are often wary and daunted by the high bar to entry for public sector frameworks and other procurement routes.

Meanwhile client side, government representatives at all levels recognise that more needs to be done to lower that entry bar and encourage more diversity of supply and innovation whilst stimulating a vital section of the economy.

Throughout our tenure as the Justice & Emergency Services Management Committee, we’ve seen positive signs from government at both a legislative level and on the ground. As an example, the latest iteration of the Digital Outcomes framework, DOS6, which runs for 24 months from June 2022, has over 3500 suppliers across the three lots, with a large SME representation. Departmental spend analysis (1) shows that the Home Office (inc Policing) and Ministry of Justice (inc Executive Agencies) are amongst the best performers on the SME spend index, with Home Office at 30.4% of departmental spend with SME’s in FY 21/22 (up from 20.8% in FY20/21) and MoJ at 23.9% FY 21/22 (up from 23.2% in FY20/21). This compares favourably with the pan government FY 21/22 figure of 14.2% but is some way behind the leader, DCMS at 41% of departmental spend in FY 21/22.

We have seen positive moves in early market engagement and efforts to expand the pool of suppliers involved in this important phase of government procurement over our tenure. TechUK is playing an important role as a route to market for these efforts, in recent months we have seen the Home Office Strategic Facial Matching and Modern Slavery VS25 projects conduct market engagement events through TechUK along with other buyer groups across the public sector, such as DALAS and CCS with TS4. As a committee we applaud this TechUK & Public Sector collaboration, which we believe drives significant value for both buyers and suppliers, we hope to see this trend continue, early market engagement is critical to good procurement and successful outcome delivery.

Looking forward, the new procurement rules(2), which received Royal Assent last week as part of the Procurement Act promise much, particularly the new requirement for buyers to ‘assess the particular barriers facing SMEs throughout the entire procurement lifecycle, and to consider what can be done to overcome them. Welcome news to TechUK members who will monitor the market with interest to understand how these new obligations will manifest specific procurements. The Act will streamline the way that companies bid for public contracts, while also giving procurers more room for negotiating prices and innovative solutions. All very encouraging!

In summary there is much to be optimistic about, simplified procurement rules, an acknowledgement that action is required to address the unique challenges for SME bidders and a growing recognition across all parties that wide and early market engagement makes for better outcomes for the public purse and the ability of suppliers to present compelling solutions. I’m particularly proud of the work the committee is doing with Police Digital Service to improve access for UK Policing to the innovation and capabilities of the TechUK membership and I know this is an area that the next committee will build upon over the coming years.

I believe techUK has a fantastic opportunity, through the networks already established, to ensure that the supplier community are briefed on the new procurement rules and, provide a forum for industry to understand these changes - be that through the committee out to the wider Justice/ public safety tech community or via a series of roundtable discussions. This of particular importance to new entrants or those looking to break into the market.

John Cheal, Justice Sector Market Lead, Capita. JES Management Committee 21-23

  1. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1158411/2023-05-25-2021_22-SME-Spend-Publication.pdf
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/small-businesses-to-benefit-from-one-of-the-largest-shake-ups-to-procurement-regulations-in-uk-history


John Cheal

John Cheal

Solutions & Propositions Director, Justice & Policing, Capita

John is a digital and innovation lead at Capita for the Justice and Policing sector. In this role he researches and develops new service and solution propositions to solve sector challenges, improve citizen experience across public services and enable the digital justice agenda. John’s background is in the design and delivery of technology enabled solutions and services for public and private sector enterprise clients. He has been a champion of workflow automation and technology driven customer experience for more than a decade. More recently John has become a member of Tech UK’s Justice and Emergency Services Management Committee.