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Prepare your business to get a share of £11bn public sector contracts at the Meet the Buyer North 2020: Live Virtual Event

Meet the Buyer North 2020: Live Virtual event

Every year the public sector in Scotland spends £11 billion. That is £11 billion set aside for goods, works and services that Scottish busi­nesses can provide – and goods and services that public bodies, whether lo­cal councils or national organisations, want Scottish businesses to provide.

And no business is too small to get its share of public sector spending. Even one-person opera­tions can have something to offer.

The problem for many small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is knowing how to put their name out there so the bodies offering these contracts know what they have to offer, or finding out what contracts are on offer.

That is where the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) and its Meet the Buyer events come in, bringing together suppliers and the public bodies which need them.

The third annual SDP Meet the Buyer North event will take place on Wednesday, September 2.

Like so many other events this year, it has been forced online by the coronavirus crisis, but as a fully virtual, online event, Meet the Buyer North has the potential to reach even more businesses and con­nect them with the organ­isations which need what they can provide – and without any additional travel or accommodation costs.

Meet the Buyer North 2019 in numbers

And with SDP’s experi­ence of delivering webi­nars and training online over the last five years, moving from a physical to virtual event should be a seamless transition.

Partnered by the Scottish Government, this unique event allows busi­nesses to spend one day, or part of a day, meeting buyers, such as procure­ment officers from local authorities and other pub­lic organisations.

While many of the sup­pliers taking part will al­ready be experienced in the tendering process for public contracts, those unfamiliar with the pro­cess or who have not been involved in the public sec­tor for some time need not feel intimidated, as the SDP team will guide them through the process with free training sessions be­fore and after the event.

More than 1300 sup­pliers have already reg­istered for the free event to take advantage of the opportunities on offer in the Highlands and Islands, Grampian area, Fife and Tayside, providing a one-stop shop for both suppli­ers and the public sector.

This year’s event has taken on an added im­portance as the impact of the Covid-19 crisis forces the country into reces­sion, and SDP Scotland has been working with members and partners to continue to provide support and training to Scottish SMEs, third sector and supported business­es throughout lockdown to help them play a part in the nation’s economic recovery.

Public service contracts can provide a vital lifeline for smaller businesses which have found their futures at risk from the effects of the Covid pan­demic, with the bonus of a guaranteed payment within 30 days – or even 10 of there is an urgent cash issue.

Public sector contracts also offer stability for their suppliers. Regardless of the economic implica­tions of issues such as the pandemic, Brexit or any other economic down­turns which may have a negative impact on private sector investment, public services still need to be delivered.

This provides suppli­ers with a relatively stable and durable customer base. There is also mar­keting mileage from hav­ing a large customer like a public body, which can then be used to promote your service to grow your business.

In certain cases, such as with local authorities, public bodies have a com­mitment to finding local suppliers where possible, but for others, geography is no barrier to securing a contract, providing an op­portunity for businesses to expand into new regions.

The virtual event is free to attend for suppliers of all sizes, but businesses must register for a free SDP account.

Along with free access to any SDP event anywhere in Scotland, this will also furnish SME businesses with full access to infor­mation, resources, toolkits and templates on the SDP website, training tailored to the business’s needs and the option to be in­cluded on SDP’s Supplier Register, which can be viewed by other Scottish-based SMEs and buyers.

SDP Exhibition at Meet the Buyer North 2019

Helping You Bid Better

SDP programme man­ager Gillian Cameron be­lieves the opportunities are so wide ranging, from long term contracts to “Quick Quote” contracts of £50,000 or less, that there is something for every participant, no mat­ter the size or speciality of the potential contractor, from construction tradespeople, cleaners, IT spe­cialists and engineers to photographers and even funeral directors.

“If someone goes to a Meet the Buyer event and comes away with nothing, I would be shocked, as it’s an unmissable opportunity to learn how to do business with a full public sector landscape,” she said.

SDP’s main remit is to support Scottish SMEs, including micro-companies and sole traders, to make the most of these opportunities, with training opportunities and guidance to help them through the process.

“Our expert trainers have all had experience of being that buyer, so they can say what a good bid looks like,” Gillian said.

“Because we work closely with councils, we can help support those opportu­nities and that approach works really well.”

It also means SDP can help potential suppliers, many of whom will never have pitched for business before, create a bid that hopefully meets the buy­er’s needs, as in the case of childcare services for local authorities.

“We worked with the individual local authorities to tailor our courses to highlight the key require­ments and documents that were needed to bid for the contract, we then put on evening training sessions to support the potential bidders to ex­plain the tender process the documents they had to complete, and we walked them through the process needed to get that tender submitted,” Gillian said.

“We had some great feedback from people saying that they would never have made a bid that if they hadn’t had that support. That’s where you feel you have made a real difference to that supplier.”

Supporting Success

Communications com­pany Provista is among the many businesses which have found it more than worthwhile to par­ticipate in Meet the Buyer, winning contracts with Moray Council and NHS Highland among several other public agencies.

“The service and train­ing available from SDP helped us to achieve our goal. By using the knowl­edge and experience gained from SDP, we are more strategic on which tenders we bid on, resulting in an increase in the num­ber of tenders we win,” the company stated.

“We would en­courage other com­panies to bid for pub­lic sector work. A smaller, more dynamic or­ganisation can be seen as more ap­pealing to pub­lic sector bodies than a larger, more bureaucratic company.”

Engaging with Local Authorities in Scotland

In addition to virtual ex­hibitions from the Scottish Government, confirmed buyers include Highland, Moray, Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Fife, Perth and Kinross and Argyll and Bute councils.

Craig Innes, head of commercial and procurement shared services at Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Highland councils, pointed out that Meet the Buyer North presents not just an opportunity to attract new work, but a platform for dialogue between different suppliers and between buyers and suppliers which could help towards the creation of a greener wellbeing economy.

“We are keen to encourage more local businesses to consider bidding for public contracts – not just our contracts, but wider public sector opportunities,” he said.

“Whether you know public procurement inside out or you’re new to it, there are invaluable benefits to be gained from networking, collaboration and an awareness of new and emerging markets, which is why the Meet the Buyer North 2020: Live Virtual Event is a crucial opportunity to restart dialogue between buyers and suppliers.

“Like any form of professional or personal development, supplier development can increase confidence, competence and help maintain a competitive edge.

“In partnership with the Supplier Development Programme, we look forward to devising and delivering a diverse and informative tender training programme over the coming year.

“By its very design, the Supplier Development Programme is intended to maximise the inclusive participation of local suppliers and businesses that may be considering establishing a virtual or physical presence in the north of Scotland with public sector tendering opportunities.

“We are confident that the programme will equip current and future suppliers with the necessary knowledge, skills and strategies to remain competitive and resilient bidders in a constantly changing landscape.”

Meet the Buyer North 2019

Diane Beattie, payments manager at Moray Council, is also looking forward to the chance to make new contacts.

“This is a major opportunity to meet the buyer ‘virtually’ and an bigger opportunity for both my procurement team at Moray Council and representatives from Business Gateway to talk to local businesses,” she said.

“This is especially important at a time when we are all trying to get the area into post-pandemic recovery.

“We want to spread the word that the council is open for business and share the many contract opportunities that are in the pipeline.”

Wider Engagement Opportunities

Other notable organisa­tions taking part include Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), national organisation Transport Scotland and SELECT, the trade association for elec­tricians, which will promote its Electrical Industry Campaign for Protection of Title for Electricians, as well as the work of the Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum (CICV) through Covid-19.

Green Recovery

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will also exhibit virtually.

SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and each year spends in the region of £18 million with suppliers.

SEPA Gauging Station

David Morgan, SEPA’s sustainable procurement manager, said: “Our supply chain is essential to the delivery of our strategic aims. We look to work with business big and small across Scotland who share our values and can contribute to the effective and efficient delivery of our services.”

SEPA has been working closely with the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) to encourage Scottish small and medium sized businesses into their supply chain.

Although online this year, the Meet the Buyer North event will be a great opportunity to find new suppliers – particularly in the more rural parts of the Scotland.

Every year SEPA has contract opportunities around the maintenance of their river gauging station network. This network is essential to effective flood forecasting as the data it provides is used for modelling potential flooding and ultimately enables the issuing of flood warnings and alerts to people across the country.

Multiple contracts between £2000 and £15,000 are available each year for these works.

Mark Franklin, SEPA’s hydrometry unit manager, explains: “Quotes are requested directly from potential suppliers. Meet the Buyer North will be a great opportunity to make SEPA aware of your business and potentially be selected to offer quotes for future contracts.”

SPA at Meet the Buyer North 2019

Understanding Future Framework Opportunities

The Scottish Procurement Alliance (SPA), which supplies goods and services for work on social housing and public buildings, will exhibit and take live questions on its four frameworks for schools and community buildings, modular buildings, roofing and doors.

These four SPA frameworks, valued around £300m cumulatively for the duration, will be lotted so that suppliers select the regions they want to work within, from North East Scotland, Highlands and Islands, Eastern Scotland, West Central Scotland and/or Southern Scotland to ensure that businesses will not need to inflate pricing to cover vast areas.

Also taking part will be Scotland Excel, the Centre of Procurement Expertise for the local gov­ernment sector which is co-funded by Scotland’s 32 local authorities, UK framework experts NEPO and Scape Group, and the Crown Commercial Service, the biggest public procurement organisation in the UK.

Innovative Supply Chain Opportunities in Construction and Renewable Energy

Private contractors also use SDP’s Meet the Buyer events to connect with suppliers, among them construction and infrastructure supply chain leader hub North Scotland.

At Meet the Buyer North, the renewable energy industry will be most visibly represented by the DeepWind supply chain cluster, which brings together 400 member groups, including representatives from the energy industry, the public sector and academic and research bodies.

Created to help members achieve the maximum benefit from current and future wind power developments in UK waters, key members include power supplier SSE, which has the largest offshore wind development pipeline in the UK and Ireland at over 7GW; Ocean Winds (formerly EDPR Offshore Wind Energy), the main shareholder in the 950MW Moray Offshore Windfarm East Ltd; Equinor, the developer of Hywind Scotland, the world’s first floating turbine commercial wind farm; and KOWL (Kincardine Offshore Wind Limited), which is developing a 50MW wind farm in the North Sea.

It also includes 24 port and harbour members covering an area from Ayrshire to the Northern Isles.

Lynsey Shovlin, the Forth and Tay Offshore project manager from Scottish Enterprise, pointed out the many opportunities available in the offshore wind sector.

“Forth and Tay Offshore is a cluster organisation which champions offshore renewable energy businesses across Scotland. We’re delighted to virtually exhibit at Meet the Buyer North as it is a great platform for us to connect with local businesses which want to secure supply chain success in offshore wind,” she said.

“ScotWind, the first offshore wind leasing round in Scotland for 10 years, will form a major part of Scotland’s green and Covid-19 recovery.

“It is expected to unlock £8 billion of investment and result in the development of 10 commercial wind farms off Scotland’s coast. As a industry cluster, we are determined to support Scottish businesses and academia to seize opportunities which offshore wind presents.”

Lars Svendsen, head of procurement at Edinburgh-based renewable energy company, Red Rock Power Limited, whose interests include a quarter share in the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm off Caithness, is also looking forward to meeting potential suppliers at Meet the Buyer North.

“Investment in the renewables industry and the development of offshore wind projects in particular will play a central role in Scotland’s green economic recovery,” he said.

“We look forward to meeting with local businesses from across the country at Meet the Buyer North to share insights into opportunities across our portfolio and learn how they can support our procurement needs.

“We’re particularly interested to hear from those developing new innovations which can improve efficiency or minimise health and safety risk, or who bring valuable expertise from other industries and sectors, such as oil and gas.”

More Information

Visit the SDP website to find out more about the Meet the Buyer North 2020: Live Virtual Event.

The SDP website also provides important in­formation on training opportunities to help you prepare for its events and make the most of the opportunity, and then guide SMEs through the next stage of the tender­ing process.

If you have any questions, you can contact info@sdp­scotland.co.uk.

Join the con­versation on social media at #meetthebuy­ernorth2020.

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