Solutions Exchange and a lack of government procurement requirements

So how is the UK Cabinet Office’s “Solutions Exchange” going, three months from its inception?

Launched by Francis Maude in late June with some fanfare, the Cabinet Office said it would “particularly help SMEs connect with Government and find out about potential ways to sell to the public sector or to pitch an innovative business idea”. Here’s how the site itself explains its purpose.

Welcome to Solutions Exchange, a new service that informally brings together suppliers and Government buyers.

This is a pilot service for Government procurers to invite the market to respond, in advance of a formal procurement, to various Challenges based on emerging opportunities to deliver Government business more efficiently.

Solutions Exchange also enables suppliers to pitch their own innovative, cost saving, proposals direct to Government via Themes that will help inform sourcing strategies.

So let’s have a look at the Challenges – “real world requirements posted by Departmental buyers who are keen to identify potential innovative and valuable new proposals from suppliers in the market”.  What exciting requirements might be there for me as a keen SME?

"None available at this time"

What about “Challenges Coming Soon”?

"None available at this time. Watch this space!"

OK, so then we have Themes – “broad areas of Government business where we are looking to find out what innovative, cost saving proposals are out there to inform our sourcing strategies”.

"None available at this time"

What about “Themes  Coming Soon”?

"None available at this time. Watch this space!"

Not very impressive and a little embarrassing. This looks to me like a typical Ministerial driven initiative that hasn’t got its roots in a real need, or commitment from the Departments to co-operate. And departmental procurement teams are under great pressure with reduced budgets and headcount, so having time to pontificate about future needs is I suspect not high on their list of priorities.

It is early days – we weren’t convinced about Contracts Finder initially and that seems to have established itself successfully, so the same may happen here. We’ll take another look in a few months anyway.

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Voices (3)

  1. Dan:

    If its anything like the place I work, I suspect that procurement teams would like to use it and see its value, but they’re not getting involved early enough to flag the opportunities up – clients/specifiers decide what they want and then approach the procurement team to tender it.

    They should link it to Government Procurement Service’s forward plan or contracts database, so at least they can see what contracts will be reprocured in 1-2 years time.

  2. Paul Wright:

    Peter, you think Contracts Finder has established itself? Care to elucidate?
    Maybe it is just me, but I see very little going through it, and the one contact I had with the Cabinet Office seemed to recognise it had problems.

    1. Peter Smith:

      They’ve got just over 1000 opportunities on there, claim to have added 60 yesterday so while I think its a long way short of getting EVERY government opportunity listed, it has made progress. I’m trying to be fair.. and its certainly a lot better than the Solutions Exchange!

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