Innovate UK EDGE specialist Elena Molinari shares tips on how to submit and win a contract bid in the public sector.
Most innovation-driven businesses will find themselves needing to bid for a contract at some stage in their journey to secure work, access new revenue streams and expand their business. Bidding for a public sector or government contract comes with benefits, with initial success counting in your favour in subsequent bids for what can be large budget and long duration projects.
While every tender will be different, there are ways to make your bid stand out and increase your chance of success.
How to win a tender: Planning and research
Before you start the tender process, comprehensive research and planning is essential in order to understand and meet the requirements of the contract notice.
Before you decide to enter a bid, ask yourself;
- Does my business meet the stated skills, experience and requirements?
- Is the work financially viable? Think about profit margins, time and resources
- Does it correlate to my business growth goals?
If the answers are all yes, start by reading the tender documents and be sure to ask further questions on anything that is unclear (while keeping in mind that the answers will be provided to all bidders.)
Tender documents include;
- Instructions to bidders - Requirements
- Specification or service requirement - Breakdown of services needed
- Tender response document - Questions about your business
- Pricing response document - Breakdown of costs
- Standard contract - Signed agreement for winning bidder
Tip 1. Search for opportunities
Governments are trying to make the bidding process for public sector contracts easier for SMEs.There are tools that make searching and applying for public contract tenders over £10,000 quicker and easier, both for contracts across the EU and for UK contracts.
Tip 2. Location-specific business knowledge
It’s one thing to know about these new opportunities, but you still need specific knowledge of the business environment in the particular country. Our relationship with Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) can help (see below).
Tip 3. Know the buyer
An analysis of the tender will reveal what precisely the potential client is looking for and you should adapt your bid accordingly. Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), which we partner, has strong working relationships with local public authorities in 65 countries and may be able to help you understand what is important to this authority and which areas they are seeking innovation.
Tip 4. Have a plan
Ensure that all of your relevant people are able to give their input. Channel that input through an individual or small team of people who are overseeing the bid. This maintains consistency in your presentation and keeps the bid focused by the experts on delivery within your organisation.
At this stage, you will need to assign roles and responsibilities, such as;
- Bid writer
- Project manager
- Decision maker
Tip 5. Listen to feedback
Make sure that your planning reflects upon any feedback gained from making previous bids. (And make sure you get feedback from this one!).
Contract bidding process
There are several different procedures that can be used for the tendering process;
- Open procedure - All bids that meet the criteria will be evaluated
- Restricted procedure - After the initial selection stage and expression of interest, a minimum of five contractors will be invited to submit a tender response
- Competitive dialogue - A selection of respondents are invited to submit an initial tender, then negotiations are opened to seek improved offers. This allows the buying authority to assess solutions and is sometimes used for design and innovation solutions
You can find the tendering process in the contract notice.
Your bid for a contract needs to demonstrate evidence of your innovative business’ suitability for the proposed work. To do this, you could include;
- Case studies
- Lists of similar clients or contracts
- Lists of skills and accomplishments
Ensure that all questions are answered and the full specification is addressed in detail. For public sector bids, the tenderer can not take existing relationships into account, so include the full details of your experiences in the bid, even if you already have a working relationship with them.
Make sure you also give yourself enough time to write and proofread your tender. Set out a timetable working backwards from the deadline, including a few days for unforeseen hurdles.
You can also attend any events and webinars which provide writing tips.
Tip 6. Keep the bid brief
Even if there’s no length limit, it’s best to keep bids concise and to the point. Providing all the necessary details in a clear and business-like manner. Avoid jargon and acronyms where possible.
Tip 7. Demonstrate the value you add above and beyond competitors
Explain how your innovative business solution goes above and beyond the standard way of solving this problem to increase your chance of success.
Tip 8. Emphasise sustainability
The sustainability of proposals is increasingly important in modern public sector contracts. You need to be able to show that your proposal will have a positive long-term impact or, at the very least, not create long-term damage.
The key areas here are environmental sustainability (and it can be helpful to poll local residents after you complete contracts to use in future bids as evidence) and social sustainability (creation of local jobs can be an easy way to demonstrate this.)
After submitting the tender
Once submitted, your bid will be evaluated in terms of eligibility, financial capacity and quality score.
Tip 9. Create a tender library
Once you have completed your bid you should start creating a tender library to demonstrate to future clients your previous successes and your capacity to enact their vision effectively.
How to win government tenders
Public sector contracts are popular with businesses of all sizes as they tend to provide a secure form of revenue and are less risky than other types of contracts. To win a government tender, be sure to demonstrate previous success with public sector work.
It’s also important to fully understand the needs and priorities of the specific public body.
Tip 10. Innovate UK EDGE guidance
Innovate UK EDGE, with specialists in every UK region, can help you gain a better understanding of the needs and specific priorities of local and national public bodies. It can also provide constructive feedback on your application.
For eligible businesses, its partnership with Enterprise Europe Network provides summaries of EU legislation for public procurement processes, available via the Europa portal covering a range of issues such as e-procurement, public-private partnerships, and defence procurement. Additionally, DG Growth provides information and guidance on how to link innovation with public procurement.
Case study: Paranimo
Innovate UK EDGE helped Bristol-based mental health technology company, Paranimo, to revamp its leadership and marketing strategies and to secure two Innovate UK grants worth £135,000.
Paranimo allows therapists to identify and rank mental health conditions based on who they can help the most. The technology then uses advanced search and comparison tools to create a percentage match with potential clients.
In March 2020, Matthew began working with Dr Ben Masheder, Access to Funding and Finance Manager at Innovate UK EDGE South West. He highlighted two key Innovate UK funding competitions and provided critical appraisal of Paranimo’s applications.
“Ben’s support was absolutely invaluable. With Innovate UK EDGE's support, we secured £135,000 over two successful funding applications despite competition from thousands of other businesses.” - Matthew Vamplew, co-founder of Paranimo.
Need some guidance? Find out how Innovate UK EDGE could help you win your next public contract bid.