There are many things that drive innovation and collaboration is certainty one of them.  I’ve been a senior procurement professional in and around the public sector for many years.  And this is one of the clearest lessons I’ve learnt: innovation happens best when a group of passionate people work together.

Collaboration is at the heart of the Bloom approach to buying and managing professional services for the public sector.  So I was delighted to accept an opportunity offered by Enterprise Nation, the networking organisation run by the government’s small business ambassador, Emma Jones MBE. It was a chance to share our views with the head of business liaison, Jimmy McLoughlin, on how government can better support SMEs.Experience driven by SMEs

We’re passionate about creating a level playing field for our community of suppliers.  As a SME ourselves, I grabbed the chance. I wanted to collaborate and contribute ideas on one of the 10 pillars of industrial strategy identified by BEIS in a recent white paper; procurement.  More on what we said later.

What do we know about procurement? Since 2012 we’ve delivered almost 3,000 projects for the public sector, worth over £114m, delivered by more than 1,300 suppliers, 73% of which were SMEs. This success and our focus on outcomes, not hours, has helped generate some unique insights into how to achieve better outcomes in professional services.

At the meeting, around 20 people represented a cross-section of Enterprise Nation small business members, joined by Emma Jones herself.  We discussed with Jimmy what government could do to better support us.  Apart from the main challenge currently facing UK Plc, Brexit uncertainty, we said that small businesses need ongoing support from government to grow.  Whether it’s reducing red tape, keeping taxes reasonable or incentivising technology or people investment, small businesses need different support to larger ones.

Building our industrial strategy

Working with SMEs wanting to win public sector business has taught us about the specific challenges faced in procurement activities.  In our BEIS consultation response, we made 13 recommendations on the ways in which government can put procurement at the heart of a strong industrial strategy. I shared our response with Jimmy, which you can read in full but the executive summary is as follows:

  • Supporting SMEs with a level playing field of opportunity
  • Changing the culture of procurement – taking a realistic approach to risk
  • Driving innovation, especially by learning what others are doing well
  • Supporting collaboration to avoid duplication and get best value for the public purse

Thanks to Emma and the team at Enterprise Nation, I enjoyed an excellent meeting with the chance of continued collaboration. It gave me renewed confidence that working with like-minded people will bring the strength this country needs as it faces the big unknown, the future beyond our exit from the European Union.  And if you’re not already a member of Enterprise Nation, I recommend you join.  Who knows what collaboration opportunities await you.

Adam Jacobs is Executive Chairman of Bloom Procurement Services.