Smaller Firms Unlock Cross-Border Contracts

Some 160 small businesses were given the opportunity to hear from and meet with Government buyers at a recent InterTradeIreland 'Meet the Buyer' event in Dundalk.

The event was organised by InterTradeIreland to raise awareness of public procurement amongst Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with varying levels of tendering experience, from novices to seasoned tenderers. The event was the first of its kind as it highlighted opportunities for businesses to compete for Government contracts throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, estimated to be worth approximately £19bn.

Around 25 key buying organisations attended the event to educate SMEs on their procurement process, what they want from suppliers and upcoming opportunities. SMEs also got invaluable access to the buyers in a number of informal settings at the buyer stands and in parallel sessions.

In addition, the provision of a ‘meeting point’ at the event enabled SMEs to network with potential joint venture partners and identify sub-contracting opportunities. The main development agencies were also on hand to offer support to SMEs on procurement and other business issues.

Stormont Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster said: "Despite significant cuts in spending, public procurement remains a huge and underexploited market for many SMEs. As buyers are tasked with finding innovative and cost-effective solutions to their needs, Northern Ireland firms have a competitive advantage, which means they are in a strong position to compete for public contracts in the Republic of Ireland.

"Furthermore, SMEs because of their size, offer flexibility and the ability to develop innovative solutions quickly to meet the demands of buyers in the public sector.

"It is indigenous SMEs who hold the key to economic prosperity and to bringing Northern Ireland out of the recession and events such as this will further assist the growth of our local businesses."
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Liam Nellis, CEO for InterTradeIreland commented: "One of the key challenges is to improve the capability of businesses to enter the public procurement market and win tenders making the market across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland more competitive.

"It was heartening to see such a good turnout of SMEs from various sectors, some new to tendering and some with a little experience of tendering interested in finding out more. Events like these provide them with the right information and resources making the public procurement market more accessible to them."

Public sector companies at the event included representatives from a wide range of industries such as the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD), Translink, Dublin Airport Authority, Health Services Executive and Northern Ireland Housing Executive amongst others.

Des Armstrong, Director of Procurement from the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD), said: "We tender for services across a broad spectrum of industries for Northern Ireland Government Departments, ranging from sourcing contractors for the construction of roads and maintenance of hospitals to suppliers of stationary and catering.

"With less money to go around, we look for the most economically advantageous tender that provides the best value. Public procurement is an increasingly complex process and so an event such as this is a great way for our potential buyers to become more aware of how to put together a good tender that is procedurally accurate and legally compliant."

Further to this event, InterTradeIreland will also be launching the first online All-island Buyer’s Guide, which will provide users with information on key buyers, what they buy and relevant contact details.

Liam Nellis added: "This will be a free online service available in early 2012 and will be invaluable to those wishing to effectively compete for public sector contacts across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland."


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