More than 600 local SMEs turned out at the InterTradeIreland ‘Meet the Buyer’ event in Belfast yesterday to find out how they could be better placed to tap into the lucrative public procurement market. Worth £2.8bn in Northern Ireland and €8.5bn in the south, both markets continue to offer substantial opportunities for small businesses, despite the decreases in public spending.
The event is held in partnership with OGP, CPD, Invest NI, Enterprise Ireland and Strategic Investment Board.
With recent changes to procurement practices by governments North and South, resulting in increasingly larger contracts being issued, delegates heard how it is now more important than ever for companies to consider forming consortia to bid for tenders. This may seem daunting at first, but there is support available from bodies such as InterTradeIreland so they do not need to face this challenge alone. This was also the topic for one of the many procurement-focused workshops.
Opening the event, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell emphasised the extensive opportunities available to SMEs through government contracts. Jonathan Bell said: “In Northern Ireland, the public sector will spend in the region of £2.8bn on goods and services in the current financial year. A significant proportion of those contracts will be awarded to SMEs, demonstrating a key commitment within our current Programme for Government.
“SMEs are well suited to helping public sector buyers find new and innovative solutions. This Meet the Buyer event presents the perfect opportunity for businesses to better understand buyers’ needs and for local companies to improve their capabilities with regards to the tendering support that is available.
“I commend InterTradeIreland and the other agencies from across Northern Ireland and the Republic that have worked together so closely to hold this event. It is vital for our economy that we have a truly joined-up approach to make tendering as accessible as possible to businesses of all sizes.”
Margaret Hearty, Director of Programmes and Business Services for InterTradeIreland said: “With the continuing challenging conditions for SMEs, the potential offered by securing public tenders is growing in importance, both in a firm’s home market and then across the border to the larger market in the south. This is reflected in our Meet the Buyer events being oversubscribed every year as they offer firms the unique opportunity to get directly in front of the key buyers from public organisations across the island including Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) in NI and The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) in Ireland, along with the likes of Translink, DRD Roads Service, NI Water, RTÉ, Dublin Airport Authority and ESB Networks.
“We know that tendering can be a complex process but InterTradeIreland has more supports in place to help small businesses than ever before so that they can increase their chances of being successful. One example being providing access to our dedicated ‘consortia facilitator’ to help companies ‘find’ each other. According to InterTradeIreland’s latest Business Monitor survey, over the last year, of the SMEs active in the public tendering market 31% have bid on a cross-border tender, of those that bid cross border, encouragingly 69% of these were successful. A sign that these opportunities are accessible to all – with the right support.
“With an all-island value of £10 billion, local tendering success can also be a stepping stone to other markets with even more significant public purchasing power, such as GB and Europe. Our Business Monitor figures highlight that there has been a significant increase in those bidding successfully for cross-border tenders, which confirms that this is a route to new business that cannot be ignored.
Margaret added: “In today’s market it pays to be at the forefront of information when it comes to the complex public procurement market and delegates at the Meet the Buyer event were also introduced to the brand new eTenders NI Portal, for which InterTradeIreland has launched a supporting innovative Tender Alert App.”
For more information on Meet the Buyer or to find out more about the tendering supports offered by InterTradeIreland, visit www.intertradeireland.com/public-procurement.