Written by Caroline Donaghy, ADS Defence Director

2021 is an important year for Defence SMEs, as the UK Government and Industry work to recover from the economic shock of the pandemic and to capitalise on the opportunities of public procurement.

UK Government is pursuing a number of initiatives to reshape public procurement; changes to the Treasury’s Green Book evaluation of Value for Money, integration of the Social Value agenda and consultations on subsidies and exports, to name a few. During the latter half of 2020 ADS worked with our Defence SME Committee (DSMEC) members to understand their challenges and priorities and discuss what could be addressed to improve the SME experience in defence procurement and engagement with the MOD.

This work culminated in three policy papers that were written to highlight the wide range of topics that our members raised. They span across a number of Government departments and include several issues that will require deeply collaborative efforts to create lasting change. To this end, each of the areas addressed has a corresponding ADS recommendation that attempts to set out a first step towards progress.

The three papers can be summarised as follows:

1. Raising the Profile and Increasing Accountability: This paper addresses Strategic Engagement with SMEs and how we can get better at Measuring Success and the impact of the MOD’s SME policies.
2. Levelling the Playing Field: This paper addresses Early Market Engagement, elements of the Procurement Process and Commercial Priorities for SMEs.
3. Increasing Competitiveness: This paper addresses Banking Support and Supply Chain Initiatives for SMEs and how Government can better support SMEs in the Export Market.

The work doesn’t stop with the publication of these papers. ADS will continue to work with all of our members to make Defence a more productive and prosperous sector for SMEs.

The UK Government plans to publish a revised Defence SME Action Plan 2021 – 2022 in the coming months and ADS hopes to see many of these issues addressed in the Action Plan.

We are also pleased to report that two ADS DSMEC members are now represented on the newly formed Defence Suppliers Forum SME Working Group. This group is tasked with delivering projects that will improve the experience of SMEs working in UK Defence. ADS will regularly update members on this work as it progresses through the year.