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Public Sector Tenders in Ireland and the EU Can Prove Lucrative for SMEs

While engaging with public sector procurement might seem like a daunting prospect, it’s not only doable but proves lucrative for many Irish SMEs.

The public sector in Ireland spends €18bn a year, and is set to spend €165bn by 2030, under the National Development Plan.

Not only is this a valuable market for Irish companies, but success in Ireland is crucial for them to scale internationally. Irish companies need to be able to show international clients that their products and services have found substantial clients at home. Public procurement can help SMEs develop complementary services, diversify, and find new opportunities.

The extensive opportunities for Irish small- to medium-sized companies in terms of the national water infrastructure alone were highlighted at a recent Enterprise Ireland Meet the Buyer event with Uisce Éireann where some 600 one to one meetings took place over two days.

Held in Portlaoise in October, the event involved ‘speed dating’-style meetings with some 24 of Uisce Éireann’s appointed main contractors – often large construction firms – and more than 100 potential suppliers.

Under the National Development Plan, Uisce Éireann plans to spend as much as €1.6bn a year on building and updating water and waste water infrastructure.

Main contractors need supply chain support to deliver, which provided the impetus for the Meet the Buyer event. For the SMEs attending, it was valuable opportunity to meet contractors and network with other SMEs. ​

Many smaller businesses don’t realise that, while they may not be able to address every aspect of a request for tender on their own, they can join with other SMEs to form consortia to tender.

To be successful it’s important to do your homework.

We suggest a three-step plan. The first is to understand the procurement language and codes involved. There is a single classification system across Europe for public sector work called the common procurement vocabulary (CPV). Every type of product or service has a related CPV code. Peanuts are 03111200-4, for example, while public opinion polling services are 79320000-3. There are just shy of 10 000 of them.

Once you know the code, you can find tenders quickly on eTenders.gov.ie, where the Irish Office of Government Procurement lists calls for tenders, or on ted.europa.eu, the Tenders Electronic Daily website of the European Union for tenders that must be advertised at an EU level.

It’s worth keeping an eye on things like prior information notices (PINs) or LOTs when upcoming calls for tender are flagged and large tenders awarded to big contractors, who may need smaller suppliers to help them deliver the work.

The second step is to be selective. Rule out less relevant or appropriate calls for tender and pitch for the 5pc of your shortlist where you are really in a strong position. Build an inhouse “Bid/ No Bid” calculator to select the most promising opportunities.

Finally, upskill your team in public procurement or designate someone specific to manage it and champion it. There are many excellent resources free or for minimal cost to achieve this such as the extensive library of educational videos online produced by the OGP.

Source : Independent