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Mastering the ‘dark art’ of public sector tendering

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By Penny Godfrey, General Manager at procurement specialist Millstream, providers of services including Tenders Direct

Small businesses should be sharing more of the public sector procurement pot, but are daunted by the perceived complexity of tendering. Training and tender alert services can help them compete against larger firms

Each year the UK public sector spends over £200 billion buying goods and services from suppliers in the private sector. The good news for SMEs is that many bodies involved directly in setting procurement goals have committed to giving them more of this spend.

The UK Government has made a pledge that by 2022 one-third of Government spend will go to small and medium-sized firms directly or through the supply chain.

While there has been a rise in the number of public sector tenders across the UK, Ireland and Europe in the last year, unfortunately too few of these opportunities – at present only one-fifth – end up in the hands of small firms, according to a recent report from FSB. 

So why is this the case? 

For SMEs that want to work with the sector it should be an attractive prospect. Not least because such contracts are secure and generally offer prompt payment terms. However, often the public sector procurement process is perceived as confusing, complicated and time-consuming. Some fear it and others simply steer clear to avoid having to understand what they believe is a ‘dark art’.


One way SMEs can address this is by ensuring they know what opportunities are out there. Alerts services, such as Tenders Direct, allow time-poor firms to find the opportunities faster and more efficiently. This frees up their time to focus on winning the contracts rather than sourcing them.

Of course, there is a certain skill to responding to public sector opportunities, and some basic knowledge and understanding can go a long way to being successful. Training and support is available, whether it’s learning about the tender process, including terminology and bid documentation, or improving your understanding of frameworks and how factors such as social value can give you an edge on larger competitors.  


Small businesses are the engine room of the UK economy. Helping SMEs to locate new business opportunities in the public sector and then compete effectively in winning them is key to continued economic growth. Taking on the public sector challenge would mean a win for SMEs and a win for the wider economy.

To learn more about the public sector tendering process, and to make sure you know what public sector opportunities are available that are right for your business, visit tendersdirect.co.uk