The Action Plan for Jobs includes a number of measures to support SMEs to access public procurement opportunities. These measures are being delivered by various bodies, including Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland, the National Procurement Service (NPS) and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The NPS and Enterprise Ireland are continuing to encourage SMEs to register on the Government’s eTenders website to enable forthcoming procurement opportunities to be brought to their attention. Since the upgrade to the eTenders website in November 2012, an additional 12,000 companies have registered with the site. This brings the current total of registered suppliers to approximately 82,000.
As well as publishing contract notices, the new eTenders site has a wide range of additional functionality that will allow other aspects of the procurement process to be completed electronically. This additional functionality is improving and generating efficiencies for both the public and private sectors.
In order to encourage greater SME participation in procurement, the NPS and InterTradeIreland have, over the past three years, conducted a targeted programme of education for suppliers who wish to learn more about doing business with the public sector. This programme consists of seminars, workshops and large scale 'meet the buyer' events hosted nationwide. Enterprise Ireland has also participated in these events. To date, over 4,500 SMEs have attended events of this nature throughout the country. SMEs are being actively encouraged to form consortia or similar business relationships to improve their bids for larger contracts.
In the context of the reform of public procurement and the establishment of a national Procurement Office, my Department and Enterprise Ireland are in on-going dialogue with the new National Procurement Officer to ensure that opportunities for SMEs to access procurement opportunities are taken into consideration and that tendering criteria are proportionate. Last year, my Department and Enterprise Ireland introduced a new Procuring Innovation initiative to make better use of the innovation available in Irish-based companies to provide solutions to the public sector. This initiative has resulted in some promising contacts between contracting authorities and SMEs. The objective is to build further on this initiative in 2013.
Full details of the implementation of the actions aimed at improving SMEs access to procurement are published in the quarterly Progress Reports on the Action Plan for Jobs which are published on my Department's website, www.enterprise.gov.ie.