Four workshops took place after lunch between 2.00pm – 3.30pm:

  1. Risk Aversion and Harnessing Innovation
  2. Supply Chains: Prompt Payment for SME Suppliers
  3. EU Myth Busting
  4. Framework Agreements

Workshop 1: Understanding Risk Aversion and Harnessing SME Innovation

This workshop explored assumptions held about the risks associated with procuring from SMEs, with key perspectives on why there are difficulties in this area, and how this can provide a barrier to innovation. Participants had the opportunity to discuss legal, administrative and cultural barriers faced, as well as share ideas for overcoming them.

Key questions and issues explored included:

  • Why are SMEs perceived to be risky? Discussing and dispelling assumptions about the reliability of SMEs as direct suppliers and in supply chains.
  • Risk management and outcome based procurement: considering the culture shift and practical steps needed to purchase, focusing on procuring outcomes rather than specifics.
  • Partnering with SMEs: exploring legal and administrative structures for sharing risk, reward, and continuous improvement over the life of a contract. How can this encourage more innovative means of contracting – for example with consortia?
  • Bringing innovation into Whitehall and beyond: How we can bring innovative players to the procurement table, for example the SBRI and use of innovative means of pre market engagement, for example Product Surgeries
  • Hear from an SME involved in the recent Innovation Launch Pad Product Surgery and how it impacted their view of procurement

Contributors included:

  • Les Mosco, Commercial Director, Ministry of Defence
  • Mark Glover, Director of Business Planning, Technology Strategy Board
  • Richard Alberg, MyWorkSearch, Innovation Launch Pad Finalist
  • Stephen Hilton and Christine Storry, Bristol City Council

Workshop 2: Supply Chains – Prompt Payment for SME Suppliers

In many categories of public procurement, SMEs are an essential part of the supply chain, offering public sector procurers a clear opportunity to achieve greater competition, better value and innovation even where the prime supplier might be a large organisation.

At the same time, access to affordable finance is a commonly quoted barrier to growth for UK SMEs. Therefore, it is important that public sector procurers consider all of the opportunities to ensure that participants within their supply chains are able to access working capital as cheaply and quickly as possible.

This workshop explored:

  • The current state of affairs: understanding the current speed of payments for invoices within the Government’s supply chain and whether SMEs face working capital issues; and,
  • Options to deliver faster payments: open discussion around potential options to deliver faster payments for the SMEs within the Government’s supply chain, in particular Supply Chain Finance and Project Bank Accounts.

Contributors to include:

  • Katharine Davidson, Executive Director, Strategy, Cabinet Office.
  • Lex Greensill, Cabinet Office advisor on Supply Chain Finance.
  • Mike Bennett, Performance Manager, the Highways Agency.
  • Neil Garrod, Head of Treasury, Vodafone

Workshop 3: EU Myth Busting

This workshop explored the legislative and procurement myths and perceptions which exist from both a SMEs and a purchaser’s viewpoint, which result in either:

  • Procurers not engaging with SMEs;
  • Procurers creating legal or commercial barriers to SMEs competing for Government contracts; or
  • SMEs believing they simply cannot win public sector contracts.

Participants had the opportunity to discuss what they believe to be the myths which cause the greatest impact on SMEs competing and winning contracts and how these myths can be dispelled.

Contributors included:

  • Sally Collier, Executive Director, Cabinet Office
  • Roger Bickerstaff, Partner, Bird & Bird

Workshop 4: Framework Agreements

This workshop explored issues associated with the use of framework agreements to provide access to goods and services in the public sector.  Participants discussed administrative and cultural issues associated with the use of framework agreements and share ideas for alternative approaches.

As substantial spend is channelled through frameworks agreements, the following questions were considered:

  • Do framework agreements make it harder to get full value from SME suppliers and if so, how?
  • How could framework agreements be changed to enable getting full value for the taxpayer from SME suppliers?
  • What alternatives to framework agreements might there be?

Contributors included:

  • Stephen Allott, Crown Representative for SMEs
  • Rod Peters, Head of Relationship Management, Government Procurement Service
  • Denise McDonagh, Home Office, representing the Government Digital Service
  • John Lorimer, Capital Programmes Director, Manchester City Council
  • Harry Metcalfe, Director, DXW