Around 200 new suppliers are signing up to the government’s Contracts Finder portal every week in search of public procurement opportunities, with small firms leading the charge.
According to fresh figures from the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), there are over 22,000 suppliers now signed up to Contracts Finder – a 53 per cent increase from the start of 2017 – of which almost two-thirds are small businesses.
Contracts Finder is managed by the CCS, part of the Cabinet Office, and contains details of all public sector contracts worth over £10,000.
Once signed up to Contracts Finder, business owners can receive automatic email alerts for new opportunities, and can tailor searches to receive news for their relevant specialism.
“Contracts Finder is a great way for small and medium sized businesses to search for opportunities in central government and the wider public sector,” said Caroline Nokes, minister for government resilience and efficiency.
Almost all public sector buyers, including local councils, emergency services, central government, universities and the NHS, are registered on the service.
“We are closer than ever to having a single website where you can find the bulk of public sector tenders,” added Ian Fishwick, a member of the Cabinet Office SME Panel.
There are some low-value opportunities not listed on Contracts Finder, and some organisations – such as schools – are not required to use the site.
Meanwhile, Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation and small business Crown representative, explained the benefits of using Contracts Finder over TED, the EU procurement portal.
“Contracts Finder is the go-to place for SMEs to find government and public sector opportunities,” Jones said. “More and more organisations are using it with twice as many UK opportunities published when compared with the TED website.
“I’d urge SMEs to log on for free and find out what opportunities are out there. We’d like to see the platform go even further and become the single location on which government’s major suppliers also list their opportunities, whilst making performance data on existing contracts more transparent.”
In August 2015, the government set a target of one pound in every three to be spent with small businesses by 2020, but has since been pushed back to 2022. While contracts worth £12.2bn went to small firms in 2016, it remains behind the wider target.
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