Most businesses (including small and medium-sized enterprises) have a wide range of opportunities to sell to public sector organisations. Whether you sell stationery, office furniture, medical supplies, IT equipment, catering services, training courses or other services, there's likely to be a market for your product or service within the public sector.
If you already sell to the public sector in Northern Ireland, then you can build on that experience and expand to other public sector contracts elsewhere. The ideal locations to target initially are those closest geographically – Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
There are also opportunities for subcontractors to benefit from high-value public sector contracts that have been won by other, larger businesses.
Potential customers across the UK and Ireland could include:
- government departments and agencies
- local councils
- health trusts
- police forces
Key UK central government departments that purchase from businesses include:
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
- the Department for Transport
- the Department for Communities and Local Government
- the Ministry of Defence
- the Department for Education
- the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
View a list of all UK government departments.
Key Irish central government departments that purchase from businesses include:
- Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
- Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
- Department of Children and Youth Affairs
- Department of Defence
- Department of Health
- Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
View a list of all Irish government departments.
The tendering process
One of the key ways in which the public sector buys - or procures - goods and services is via tender. The tendering process involves the buyer - in this case a public sector organisation - setting out their requirements. Potential suppliers can then submit a bid showing how they could meet those requirements and at what cost.
Public sector bodies have strict procedures they must follow when procuring - to ensure the process is fair and open to scrutiny.
Many of these organisations have booklets or websites which set out their specific needs and explain how you can become a supplier.
You should also remember that acting as a subcontractor to a large company which has won a high-value contract can be an effective way of getting government orders.