As businesses prepare for the time that will inevitably be known as ‘post-pandemic Britain’, one thing is certain – small businesses need support and a structured plan.

Even before COVID struck, Britain’s business outlook was rather unsteady with Brexit lurking in the background and so, when lockdown commenced and businesses were forced into the new normal as it is affectionately known, supply chains faltered, and demand fell by the wayside.

Pandemonium ensued and small businesses were hit disproportionately, particularly in East Anglia, London, and the North West. Their problems were caused by the difficulties that we’ve mentioned above but, also because of many SMEs struggled with the rapid adoption of digital technologies.

Sink or swim

Survival mode was very much a shared view by business decision makers throughout the UK. ESEI, when discussing how to weather the storm, suggested that businesses need to invest in innovation, take their business online, respond to logistic demands, alter the existing business model, and rebrand.

Of course, not all of them above are entirely achievable but, some of them at least were attempted by nearly every business in the United Kingdom – in reality, they had to do something. Unfortunately, for SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses in the UK, the cost of COVID is expected to be around £126.6 billion, a sum that will have detrimental impacts on these businesses for years to come.

ESEI’s first proposal, to invest in innovation, sits at the very forefront of business events which took place during the initial months of the pandemic. Businesses found themselves turning off most, if not all, of their physical operations to focus purely on digital.

Microsoft Teams and Zoom quickly found their feet as the centralised office environment while the Cloud became the new filing cabinet. Companies that had barely used these new technologies before found themselves entrenched in their capabilities, making a number begin to ask the question, ‘well, what else can my business take advantage of?’, and the answer is ‘plenty.’

Then came AI & Machine Learning. Business decision makers call upon the help of these technologies in a bid to reduce their operational costs, increase their efficiency, grow revenue streams, and improve the overall customer experience. Sound familiar? Yes, these are exactly the same ways in which businesses can survive – by cutting costs, increasing profits, and holding on to customers!

Why go with AI & Machine Learning?

Prior to exploring the rapid growth of these technologies, it’s worth explaining what they mean.

AI, or artificial intelligence to give it its appropriate title, is the mimicking of human cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving. It uses both maths and logic to re-enact the reasoning people use to form new decisions and learn information. Meanwhile, machine learning is an application of AI that uses mathematical formulae and data to allow a computer to learn without instruction. Ultimately, this allows the device to be let loose on self-improvement and knowledge enhancement.

For small business owners, this is probably the stage where you think you are way out of your depth, thinking that advanced digital infrastructure like this is way beyond their business but, the fact of the matter is, every business can benefit from learning more about themselves and their operations through the power of data, regardless of what you do.

Big data – sounds daunting, doesn’t it? The term big data, often used for the data used by AI and machine learning, may come across as intimidating but it’s not about providing all the data associated with your business throughout history. Rather, it is about harnessing relevant data and technology to get a clearer picture of the current situation and what the future is likely to hold.

In even better news for small business owners – most of the groundwork associated with AI and machine learning has already been done, so all you have to do is implement it and start reaping the inevitable rewards.

Cost and reward

For small to medium size businesses, before investing, ensure that you can acquire a solution or software that gives you access to the data analysis that you need, rather than a full suite of tools that are redundant to you.

Thanks to the size of your company, your journey time from deployment to integration should be considerably lower than that of a major corporation as you should be able to get it running in conjunction with your current setup.

In recent years, the price of technology associated with accessing data has dropped significantly – use free government databases and social network stores to power your insights combined with in-house data that you have already been collecting.

By introducing AI & machine learning you can successfully position your business as one of the most competitive within the market, anticipating trends and making moves ahead of fellow business decision makers.

Innovation is at the forefront of business decision makers’ minds within SMEs however, business these individuals often find themselves swamped in the day-to-day decisions that could easily be made by AI. Take the time back from less important decisions and reassign it to those which could be taking your business to the next level.

Where do I begin?

Before you press go, you need to understand the problems that you face rather than automatically trying to come up with a solution. Likewise, implementing AI and machine learning throughout the business at every possibility will simply result in you becoming inundated with data that you’re unsure how to utilise – find the areas that need assistance and start there.

Emails, social media, web traffic, and customer data – all of these places will provide you with the necessary data to feed the machine – it really is everywhere and ready for you to manipulate.

For small businesses in a post-pandemic world, there are plenty of lucrative opportunities – no more so than within the public sector! Did you know that the government has pledged its support to start ups and SMEs either directly, or through the supply chain? That means businesses like yours, regardless of size, could be winning the next government contracts today!

 

Find new opportunities

S2G can help you find new tenders in the public sector – and those who haven’t traditionally supplied to the sector will be encouraged to do so with such heavy investment from government.

Start your free trial or ask for a demo today to begin your journey in supplying to government.

Register today.

education - UK Tenders

Great news for businesses of all sizes – contracts have been published for the £7Bn Department for Education 2021 Construction Framework. The four-year framework is for the delivery of both education and non-education projects across the public sector.

The framework supports the delivery of the Department for Education’s school building programme, with an emphasis on achieving net zero carbon in operation.

Following a rigorous selection process, 26 contractors have been selected nationally to deliver projects ranging from small works at £500k to £6M, to medium value works at £6M to £12M, and to high value works over £12M.

The new framework will be available to local authorities, schools, academies, further education colleges, universities, and other public bodies that provide educational facilities in England, while also being available to central government, including government agencies.

What are frameworks?

For suppliers that are already working with the public sector and would like to expand the opportunities available to them, winning a place on a framework agreement can help them participate in national and large collaborative procurements where the framework is often divided into specialist or geographical lots.

Although winning a place on a framework agreement is no guarantee of work, it can significantly enhance a supplier’s reputation and prestige, and can bring smaller suppliers (businesses like yours) the opportunity to work with high-profile buyers (procurement heads).

Sustainability and social value

Midlands contractor GF Tomlinson, one of the selected partners, found their strong focus on sustainability and social value helped them secure a place on the framework, highlighting an ever growing need for SMEs to invest in their business processes, so they remain ethical and responsible.

Chris Flint, Managing Director at GF Tomlinson, said: “The DfE framework places decarbonisation at the forefront of every scheme. Our standardised school solutions comply with the DfE’s Output Specification and meet the zero carbon requirements for new schools.

“We will work with the DfE, their technical advisors and the schools themselves to ensure schemes continue to respond to the climate emergency and achieve the Government’s net zero targets.”

Opportunities on frameworks

With the Government’s drive to reduce carbon emissions in all its buildings, now is a great time to approach the market with new green innovations.

Having a social value or environmental plan already in place for your business can help larger organisations meet their targets and give you a stronger case when bidding for projects. Sustainable tendering has never been more important.

Where do me and my business come in?

The obvious question we hear you asking is ‘so, where do me and my business come in?’. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that there exist a plethora of opportunities within frameworks across a wide variety of areas – and you don’t even need to find them yourself, thanks to the potential offered by S2G.

S2G can help you find tenders and give you market sector advice tailored to your organisation.

It’s important to build relationships with the supply chain to ensure you don’t miss out on a place on these large government projects

Find new opportunities

S2G can help you find new tenders in the public sector – and those who haven’t traditionally supplied to the sector will be encouraged to do so with such heavy investment from government.

Start your free trial or ask for a demo today to begin your journey in supplying to government.

Register today.

With the announcement of some £20M in investment from the UK Government, tidal stream electricity is due to create waves across the UK.

The investment has been announced as part of the flagship renewable energy auction scheme, Contracts for Difference, and will kickstart a brand-new chapter in the UK’s tidal industry.

Contracts for Difference (CfD) contracts are allocated through a competitive auction process where the cheapest projects in each technology group are awarded contracts first, with the auction designed to ensure competitive pressure to keep costs down and protect consumers.

Renewable projects are subject to strict planning controls that afford protections to local communities and the environment, and guidance will ensure communities are engaged with and are able to benefit from renewable infrastructure in their area.

Here, we take a brief look at the history and the benefits that said investment is set to have.

Tidal technology

Scotland has long been a pioneer for tidal technology, hosting the world’s largest tidal stream generating station, built in 2018. The latest round of investment will not only boost Scotland’s marine energy sector, but expand this across the UK – projects are currently in development in North-West Scotland, North Wales and the Southern coast of England.

The investment will give the sector the chance to develop its technology and lower its costs in a similar way to its world-leading offshore wind industry.

With the predictability of the tides, tidal energy has the potential to be a very reliable source of generation and will make it easier to match supply with demand, building on the UK Government’s commitment to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile global gas prices.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “As an island nation we are perfectly placed to capitalise on clean marine energy, building on our booming offshore wind sector which is now a British industrial success story.

“We hope to see marine energy follow in the successful footprints of other renewable technologies, where we’ve seen costs fall dramatically in recent years thanks to UK Government support.

The investment today provides a major push for tidal power to become a key part of the next generation of renewable electricity projects needed to strengthen energy security as we work to reduce our dependency on volatile fossil fuels.”

Net zero

The UK has set forth its intentions on achieving net zero and reducing carbon emissions, and numerous green initiatives have been put forward and received funding. Tidal energy now joins that group, creating opportunities in green technology across the UK.

CEO of Renewable UK, Dan McGrail, commented: “This is a major step forward for the UK’s world-leading tidal energy industry, allowing us to ramp up the roll-out of our cutting-edge marine technologies and increase the pace of innovation in the sector to become more cost-competitive.

“Ring-fenced funding for tidal stream doesn’t just unlock private investment and secure green jobs today – it also puts us in pole position to capitalise on exports to the global market in due course. That’s why we’ve been calling for this dedicated pot of funding for tidal power.”

Unlocking investment

It’s good news for British businesses too – companies now have a chance to tender for new projects in the green technology sector.

Chair of the UK Marine Energy Council, Sue Barr, said: “The impact of this support cannot be overstated. Here in the UK, we have the knowledge, skills, people and projects to lead the world in marine energy, but we have been missing a vital piece of the puzzle to unlock investment and allow the sector to scale-up and deliver. The marine energy sector stretches the length and breadth of the UK – from the Isle of Wight to Orkney and Shetland.”

Winning contracts for the likes of marine energy projects will undoubtedly support SMEs for a considerable time to come and will, certainly, be welcome news for business leaders across the country.

Find new opportunities

S2G can help you find new tenders in the public sector – and those who haven’t traditionally supplied to the sector will be encouraged to do so with such heavy investment from government.

Start your free trial or ask for a demo today to begin your journey in supplying to government.

Register today.

Data released by the Department for International Trade shows that there has been more than £5.8Bn of foreign investment in green projects since the launch of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan.

The figures also show that 56,000 high-quality green jobs have been secured and created across the UK since November 2020.

The release of the data came ahead of the COP26 conference being held in Glasgow, as the UK leads on tackling climate change.

Are you a supplier of green products or services? Access the UK’s largest database of government contracts by registering for free on Supply2Gov.

What does this mean?

This major green investment boost comes as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan and ambition to make the UK a global leader in green technology and finance. Investment includes more than £650M in advancing offshore wind this year alone, supporting almost 3,600 jobs across the Humber and North-East; and over £900M in accelerating the shift to zero-emissions vehicles.

The UK will also see AESC invest over £400M in battery manufacturing for example, as part of a £1Bn project with Nissan and Sunderland Council to create a flagship Electric Vehicle Hub.

Securing private investment for clean technology is a core part of the Government’s strategy to meet our world-leading emissions reductions targets over the next decade and achieve Net Zero by 2050.

The PM’s Ten Point Plan will mobilise £12Bn of Government investment over the next decade to create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs in the UK – and unlock three times as much private sector investment by 2030.

What are the UK Government saying?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “These new figures are yet more evidence that going green means creating high-quality jobs across the United Kingdom.

“We are at the forefront of seizing these new opportunities, supported by major government investment and a British zeal for innovation and commerce.

“Since the launch of our Ten Point Plan, businesses across the country have attracted international investment in the industries of the future, ensuring we build back better and greener.”

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan commented: “The UK is already one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world and the Global Investment Summit will build our reputation further as we bring the world’s top business names to our shores.

“Inward investment helps level up the UK by making companies more profitable, which means they can invest back into local economies and create stronger supply chains, meaning more sustainable communities for the future.”

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “The UK is fully capitalising on the global green industrial revolution, showing the world how business and industry can remain competitive and attract international investment in this race to secure new green industries.

“As we power on with our plan to back new British industries – from car battery makers to wind turbine designers – we are laying the foundations for a new era of green jobs and decades of economic growth to come.”

Interested in the public sector?

If you’ve never worked with the public sector before, now is the time to get into the market. Register for free to gain access to our “Ready to Tender Checklist”, which will help you cover all bases when it comes to public sector procurement.

What is net zero?

With COP26 on the horizon, the goal of net zero and reducing carbon emissions has been pushed further into the spotlight.

On 12 June 2019, the UK Government amended the Climate Change Act to introduce a target of a 100% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

The momentum has continued with adverse weather events becoming more widely experienced. In April this year the sixth Carbon Budget set into law the climate change target to reduce UK emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.

Tackling climate change is a huge issue, but SMEs can make a contribution to the UK’s targets by implementing small changes and improving sustainability.

Why does it matter to you?

In June this year, a new National Procurement Policy was released which stated that all public sector buyers must consider social value outcomes in their procurement exercises, alongside additional priorities including:

  • Creating new businesses, new jobs and new skills in the UK
  • Improving supplier diversity
  • Tackling climate change and reducing waste

With the pressure on public sector buyers and larger businesses to improve their green credentials, they will soon be looking to their supply chain to help them meet these challenging targets.

By starting now, you will give yourself an advantage and get ahead of your competitors. Appoint a green champion and learn what changes you can make. Government and business organisations such as the FSB provide help to make your business more sustainable.

Supply to Government

From cleaning contracts to construction contracts, the public sector wants to buy from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as they provide value for money, innovation and economic benefits. With the UK Government committing to 33% of procurement spend by value going to the growth of SMEs, now is the time to enter the public sector supply chain.

Government spends some £285 billion on public procurement every year. This huge marketplace requires suppliers across all business sectors – from cleaning to catering, furniture to fencing, and building to boilers, central and local government contracts are plentiful, with many contracts suitable for SMEs.

Top 10 Tips:

  1. Put a plan in place now – having a track record will give your tender credibility.
  2. Implement a green policy – small changes such as reducing printing, turning off computers and holding online meetings all make a difference.
  3. Have green premises – turning lights off, turning down heating and using eco-technologies will not only improve your bid, but also help your bottom line.
  4. Deliveries – consider using electric vehicles or consolidating deliveries to lessen carbon emissions.
  5. Consider your company’s culture – can you start a cycle to work scheme? Do you use single-use plastic cups?
  6. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle your waste – or can someone else make use of it?
  7. Customers are demanding more green solutions and technologies – can your company provide the innovations needed?
  8. Consider your supply chain – what are they doing to become more sustainable?
  9. Measure your carbon footprint – there are many advice services that will help you understand where improvements can be made.

Supply2Gov aims to keep you up to date with all the public sector and supply chain contract information that you need to successfully grow your business. By registering with us, you’ll take your first step towards finding new business opportunities for your organisation. Registration also gives you access to the UK and Ireland’s largest public sector contracts database. 

Register now.

The public sector supply chain – what you need to know 

Government spends some £285 billion on public procurement every year. This huge marketplace requires suppliers across all business sectors – from cleaning contracts to catering, furniture to fencing, and building to boilers, central and local government contracts are plentiful, with many contracts suitable for SMEs. 

National Procurement Policy Statement (NPPS) 

The Government has recently released a new National Procurement Policy Statement. 

The NPPS requires contracting authorities to consider social value outcomes in their procurement exercises, alongside additional priorities including: 

  • Creating new businesses, new jobs and new skills in the UK 
  • Improving supplier diversity 
  • Tackling climate change and reducing waste 

What does social value mean? 

Government wants to ensure public procurement enhances social value for communities. How can this be achieved? 

  • By generating economic growth 
  • By creating new jobs and skills designed to support the growth of SMEs 
  • By increasing job opportunities 
  • By contributing to government targets of hitting net zero by 2050 and reducing waste 
  • By supporting start-ups, SMEs and voluntary, charitable and social enterprises  
  • By increasing innovation and technology through the supply chain 

Why does this matter to you (and all other government suppliers)? 

Adding social value to your tender bids helps you stand out from your competitors, and helps local authorities and government hit their targets. 

What you can do to add social value to your tender 

  • Prepare yourself. What are the challenges facing the authority, and how can you help them achieve their objectives? 
  • Look at local environmental policy. How you can help the authority to meet their goals?  
  • What can be done within the scope of the contract to add social value? 
  • Look at what your competitors are doing. What are their policies? 
  • Look at Corporate Responsibility Checklists. What are you already doing which you could include in your bid? 

Top Tip 

Make a start now. A track record looks better on a tender and you won’t be struggling to backfill your policy when you write your bid. 

What should you be doing first to get ready for these changes? 

Prepare: Business intelligence is key, so be ready for opportunities. Supply2Gov can provide you with the insight you need, ahead of the competition. 

Engage: Supplier engagement is about introducing innovation into the supply chain, as well as improving productivity and outcomes.  

Learn: Procurement advice services can help you build your bid with strong social value benefits. 

Remember, Supply2Gov is here to help you with business intelligence and expert advice on growing your business.  

Supply2Gov aims to keep you up to date with all the public sector and supply chain contract information that you need to successfully grow your business. By registering with us, you’ll take your first step towards finding new business opportunities for your organisation. Registration also gives you access to the UK and Ireland’s largest public sector contracts database. 

Register now.

Construction is suffering from a shortage of both materials and workers, as the industry recovers from the pandemic.

Figures from the ONS and PMI show that while construction is one of the fastest-growing industries following on from 2020’s shutdown, a lack of materials and workers to implement jobs is holding back growth.

  • Construction output fell 0.8% in May 2021
  • 0.7% monthly decline in April 2021.
  • These recent declines in monthly growths, follow exceptionally strong growth in February and March 2021 (3.7% and 4.7%) respectively.

What’s happening?

For a number of months, the CLC has been warning of materials shortages, with its latest statement confirming the crisis. Brexit pressures have added to the problem, with the industry relying on imports for a number of crucial products.

The latest CLC statement confirms: “Timber, roof tiles and some steel products continue to be in short supply, as is bagged cement which may have been impacted by some manufacturers undertaking overdue preventative maintenance.

“Paints, sealants and chemical products continue to be affected by raw material shortages, with paints additionally affected by a shortage of packaging, particularly metal cans. The situation with insulation boards has also become tighter, with PIR becoming harder to obtain and contractors actively seeking alternatives.

“Plasterboard has been subject to extended lead times with one major manufacturer indicating their products going on allocation. Some regions are also reporting delayed deliveries of bricks and blocks.

“Electrical products have been affected by raw material shortages, particularly steel products and semi-conductors, since Autumn 2020.”

How it’s affecting the public sector

With a strong pipeline and commitments to many projects across the public sector and growth in the private sector, a materials shortage could halt work in its tracks.

This has been coupled with the latest statement on labour supply from the ONS. The current demand for construction workers is at a near 20-year high, with 33,000 job vacancies in the sector. The skills crisis in construction has been discussed for a long time, and the industry is still struggling to bring young people into the sector. Together with Brexit pressures on the industry, there is a huge gap in personnel available to implement projects.

How you can take advantage

Latest market information tells us that there are many opportunities for SMEs across the public sector. Local Government continues as the most active sector, followed by Central Government and Education.

Market activity between 5 and 11 July shows that 35% of contracts published were for less than £100,000 – clearly indicating a continued opportunity for SMEs throughout the public sector.

Activity also suggests there is a strong future pipeline for public sector work, meaning a huge opportunity for construction suppliers – so register with S2G to keep your eye on upcoming opportunities.

If you’ve never worked with the public sector before, now is the time to get into the market. Register for free to gain access to our “Ready to Tender Checklist”, which will help you cover all bases when it comes to public sector procurement.

Green infrastructure was a hot topic for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, at the last budget announcement.

We reveal the government’s latest plans and initiatives for the area below.

 

Budget 2021

There were several green initiatives announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget.

Last week he announcement that the new UK Infrastructure Bank will open in Leeds with £12 billion capitalisation from the Government. The Bank will aim to fund £40 billion worth of projects.

Mr Sunak also reiterated the need for a commitment to green investment and confirmed that green projects will be funded through a green recovery bond.

He said:

“Our future economy needs investment in green industries across the United Kingdom. So I can announce today the first ever UK Infrastructure Bank.

Located in Leeds, the Bank will invest across the United Kingdom in public and private projects to finance the green industrial revolution.

Beginning this spring, it will have an initial capitalisation of £12 billion and we expect it to support at least £40 billion of total investment in infrastructure.”

The Chancellor also announced £20 million to fund UK-wide competition to develop floating offshore wind demonstrators and help support the Government’s aim to generate enough electricity from offshore wind to power every home by 2030.

Other commitments to support green initiatives included a £68 million fund for a UK-wide competition to deliver first-of-its-kind long-duration energy storage prototypes which will reduce the cost of net zero by storing excess low carbon energy over longer periods.

 

Are your ready to tender for green contracts?

The public sector wants to work with suppliers that conduct their business in a way that is ethical. When evaluating a tender, they will consider the environmental impact made by the applicant.

Have a think about your business’s CSR policy and make sure that you are including details about it within your tender.

Once you have done so, register for free to gain access to our “Ready to Tender Checklist”, which will help you cover all bases when it comes to public sector procurement.

 

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered his 2021 budget to the House of Commons on 3 March.

If you are unsure what the latest UK Budget means for SMEs, we explore the number of measures that have been put in place to directly support small businesses.

 

Help to grow scheme

Mr Sunak announced that small businesses in the UK will be given support from the government to boost their software and training under a Help to Grow scheme.

During the announcement he said:

“First, Help to Grow: Management will help tens of thousands of small and medium sized businesses get world-class management training.

Dozens of business schools across the United Kingdom will offer a new executive development programme with mentoring and peer learning, and government will contribute 90% of the cost…

Second, Help to Grow: Digital.

With the pandemic, many businesses have moved online. This has been a challenge. But we want to turn it into an opportunity.

We’re going to help small businesses develop digital skills by giving them free expert training and a 50% discount on new productivity-enhancing software, worth up to £5,000 each.”

It has been confirmed that both programmes will commence by the autumn. Any interested businesses can register now on Gov.UK/HelpToGrow.

 

The business rates holiday has been extended

The Chancellor announced that the business rates holiday will continue until the end of June 2021. After that, business rates will be discounted.

Wales and Scotland have already announced business holidays. In Scotland, the business rates holiday will cover retail, hospitality, leisure, and aviation businesses in 2021-22. In Wales this will cover hospitality and leisure businesses.

The VAT cut to five per cent for hospitality and tourism businesses will also remain until September. After that, it’ll increase to 12.5 per cent, before returning to 20 per cent in April 2022.

 

Furlough extension

The Chancellor also announced the extension of the employees furlough scheme.

Since the beginning of the pandemic more than11 million people have had their wages covered by furlough scheme. Making the announcement, Mr Sunak said:

“Our COVID support schemes have been a lifeline to millions, protecting jobs and incomes across the UK.

“There’s now light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap for reopening, so it’s only right that we continue to help business and individuals through the challenging months ahead – and beyond.”

 

Small business? Win big

On average the UK public sector spends around £284 billion on goods and services in the process we know as procurement. In recent years has encouraged small businesses to seek opportunities, as aims to spend £1 in every £3 with SMEs, directly or through the supply chain, by 2022.

At Supply2Gov we help new and existing suppliers find contracts that are right for their business, to help them grow in this lucrative market.

Sign up to Supply2Gov tender alerts, and start receiving tender opportunities straight to your inbox. You will gain access to one free geographical location of your choice to help get you started.

Register for free