Seawork Connect’s ‘MOD Next Generation Boats Programmes’ session offered a valuable insight into opportunities for SMEs.

Joe Lambon, who works across commercial ships, defence equipment and support for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), discussed how the commercial marine industry can access procurement opportunities with the MOD.

He explained where to find the opportunities and the policy and guidance that governs the MOD’s procurement processes. He also discussed the MOD SME action plan, tips and guidance for SMEs and the MOD’s approach to innovation.

Lambon said: “The MOD is the UK industry’s single largest customer. There are opportunities for countless suppliers to contract with us.

“We’ve got a huge planned spend for equipment and support in the next decade.”

Key resources

He said information, resources and opportunities can be found on the MOD Defence Sourcing Portal and the UK Government’s Contracts Finder.

He noted the Cabinet Office’s Crown Commercial Service ‘Selling to Government’ guide for SMEs, which advises building below the threshold (starting with low value procurements, e.g. under GB£100k); looking out for market engagement events for an opportunity to shape the formal agenda and monitoring Requests for Information; answering the ‘exam questions’ to make sure tender documents are as strong as possible; and providing evidence to substantiate your bid.

The SME action plan aims to reinforce the MOD’s commitment to the SME agenda. The plan is to increase spend with SMEs to 25%. It addresses strengthening supplier engagement by working more closely with suppliers to improve opportunities to do business with defence. It also aims to make it easier to do business with defence, by, for example, promoting more early market engagement; improve procurement policy and process, e.g. the prompt payment initiative; and encourage innovation, e.g. through the department for business energy and industrial strategy-sponsored Innovate UK.

How can suppliers get more involved?

Tim Currass, programme director at the Society of Maritime Industries and moderator of the session, asked how a supplier can better engage with the primary defence company suppliers and get more involved with newbuild projects, as well as refit and repairs.

Dan Bishop, director ship acquisition, defence equipment and support at the MOD, advised SMEs to “look at the MOD contracts bulletin but also look at announcements about awards, in terms of intentions to run competitions.” He suggested scanning the market to find out who to engage with directly.

Phil Gittins, boats team leader, defence equipment and support at the MOD, added: “We buy whole boats. Equipment suppliers need to be focused on those bidding into us and monitoring those competitions coming up, or talking to the in-service providers, and if you’ve got retrofit components that could be swapped in and out, then talking to them about how those could be used.”

By Rebecca Jeffrey