The Cabinet Office has launched an online tool, dubbed Solutions Exchange, which aims to create an ‘informal’ way for SMEs to engage with and sell to government without expensive procurement costs.
Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, hopes that the portal will give SMEs a free of charge way to pitch innovative ideas to the public sector.
Tendering for government business in the UK has traditionally been lengthy and expensive, with UK procurements costing twice as much as France, which has often resulted in the exclusion of SMEs.
“I’ve heard time and time again from small companies that one of the hardest things about winning government contracts is breaking into government in the first place – it can feel like Whitehall is full of faceless procurers who are unaware of what smaller firms can offer,” said Maude.
“For government [Solution Exchange] is a new way to find out what the market has to offer in advance so that we can speed up formal procurement times.”
The tool works as an online forum for businesses to interact with government procurers and is divided up into ‘challenges’ and ‘themes’.
‘Challenges’ are emerging opportunities to work with government that are not yet at the formal procurement stage, and currently includes looking at how suppliers could make better use of a facial recognition system in passport control.
‘Themes’, meanwhile, are broader categories that allow suppliers to pitch their own innovative, cost saving proposals direct to government. Themes currently include how data from government IT functions could be better used, and also how government communication could be improved.
In other news, an influential government think take published a report yesterday which praised parts of the government’s ICT strategy, but also warned that there are still ‘voices of scepticism’ within Whitehall and more needs to be done.