Philip Sinclair: Case study

at Cabinet Office

Head of Innovation and Growth, Cabinet Office

Government procurement has the potential to create significant business and growth opportunities for SMEs – £230 billion per year is spent on goods and services across the whole public sector. For small suppliers, winning a share of this market could be transformational for their business. This can include procurement supply chains that can offer businesses the opportunity to build capacity and know-how in what is a huge marketplace.

Chief amongst the criticisms from SMEs about public sector procurement is the complexity, cost and inconsistency when trying to sell to more than one authority. Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s adviser on small business and enterprise, made a number of recommendations in his report, Growing Your Business, as to how government procurement could be made more accessible to SMEs. A key recommendation in this report was the creation of “single market” principles to provide a simple and consistent approach to procurement across all public sector agencies, where SMEs can gain better and more direct access to contract opportunities.

This is where CSaP Policy Fellow Philip Sinclair (Head of Innovation and Growth, Cabinet Office) came in. Philip used his Policy Fellowship to leverage the expertise of a very wide range of academics in the development of Contracts Finder, a new platform which creates the single market for public sector business opportunities:

  • All public sector opportunities and future opportunities (pipelines) are now on one website - above £10,000 in central Government and £25,000 in the wider public sector.
  • Opportunities are presented in a robust standardised way, and published via an open API – all data on the platform is open.
  • The data is searchable by price, location and sector.

Commenting on the launch of the Contracts Finder platform, Lord Young said: “Contracts Finder is a world first in terms of scale and ambition. It opens up government business like never before and levels the playing field for SMEs who in the past, didn’t know how to find public sector contracts, let alone bid for them.”

By facilitating access to leading academics across Cambridge, CSaP has provided an opportunity to test ideas and concepts early in the design process, understand the latest thinking across a range of subject areas, and enabled a level of collaboration with academia which would not otherwise have been possible.

CSaP will remain in close touch with Philip as the new platform is rolled out – we plan to update the story in a few months’ time. To be continued…