SMEs need to be encouraged to avail of the €12 billion public procurement market that was the message from InterTradeIreland at the annual ‘Meet the Buyer’ event at CityWest in Dublin today (12th November 2014). The event, attended by a record 1,000 small and medium enterprises and 150 buyers from across the public sector, north and south, focussed on the opportunities for SMEs with major public sector buyers across the island. Key buyers that attended included the Office of Government Procurement, Health Service Executive, , Central Bank of Ireland, , NI Water and ESB Networks who met directly with small business owners to raise awareness of the kinds of service they tender for, forthcoming opportunities and how they tender.
Despite the opportunities in this sector, InterTradeIreland’s most recent Business Monitor, indicated that only 14% of SMEs across the island have bid on a public sector tender in the last 12 months, with less than a quarter of firms surveyed having bid for a tender on a cross-border basis in the opposite jurisdiction.
The Meet the Buyer event was delivered in partnership with the Office of Government Procurement, Central Procurement Directorate, Enterprise Ireland, Invest NI and the Strategic Investment Board. Opening the event Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Public Procurement Simon Harris said: “Public procurement represents a huge opportunity for SMEs. Aside from capital projects, the State spends about €23 million a day on purchasing goods and services. This is a significant contribution to the domestic economy and today’s event reiterates the Government’s commitment and that of the new Office of Government Procurement to supporting and up-skilling SMEs to engage with public procurement and compete for this business. Moreover, businesses that are successful in winning public contracts often win repeat business and, given the consistent nature of public procurement processes, are then well placed to win public business abroad.”
As well as engaging directly with key buyers, specialists were also on hand to give workshops to SMEs on consortia building and lessons in tendering. SME’s also had the opportunity to attend the eTenders/eSourcing NI demo and clinic. Representatives from key business agencies also advised SMEs on current funding opportunities and business supports available.
Margaret Hearty, Acting CEO for InterTradeIreland said: “Meet the Buyer give SMEs the edge in the public procurement process. The high turnout at today’s Meet the Buyer event highlights the appetite from SMEs to learn about the changing public procurement structure and tendering process. As a consequence of these changes, the number of individual tenders is expected to drop, while the value of tenders will almost certainly rise over time. Today’s event will prepare SMEs for these changes and help them adapt their approach to public sector tenders.”
She added: “InterTradeIreland is committed to equipping SMEs with the skills needed to successfully compete in the public procurement process. To date over 1,500 SMEs have directly benefitted from the Meet the Buyer events. Meet the Buyer is just one of the tendering supports offered by InterTradeIreland, we have developed a comprehensive suite of specific tendering supports, including a dedicated ‘consortia facilitator’ to help SMEs form a consortia and compete for larger contracts. I would encourage SMEs to visit our website to avail of the free InterTradeIreland tendering supports available.”
The Chief Procurement Officer and CEO of the Office of Government Procurement. Mr. Paul Quinn said; “The Office of Government Procurement’s goal is to ensure that it gets easier for businesses to engage with public procurement while at the same time driving improved value for money for the tax-payer. One of the key pillars of OGP support for SMEs is pro-active engagement and education. We work closely with InterTradeIreland and Enterprise Ireland in building awareness of public procurement and delivering support for small suppliers in bidding for public contracts. This InterTradeIreland Meet the Buyer event is a key part of that support – they provide a platform for suppliers to meet with public sector buyers to better understand how public procurement works and the relevance of their goods or services.”
SMEs interested in obtaining further information on tendering for public procurement contracts and further procurement advice should go to www.intertradeireland.com/public-procurement where they can also download useful tender alert apps. Information is also available on the website on InterTradeIreland’s Award Winning Go-2-Tender Programme to support SMEs on how to write successful tenders and ultimately win new public sector procurement contracts.