Supply Chain Advocates: connecting SMEs with the MOD

The Ministry of Defence announced recently that it had built a network of Supply Chain Advocates to help SMEs do business with the Department. Here, MOD DCB features editor Julie Shennan explores the aims and functions of this network.

The Government is reforming the way in which Whitehall conducts its procurement activity, stripping out bureaucracy and making it easier for firms of all sizes to win contracts. The Ministry of Defence alone accounts for 45% of all central government spend.

The final set of published figures for the last Parliament reported the MOD achieved a total spend of 19.4%, or £3.8 billion, with small and medium-sized enterprises in 2014/15. In order to achieve a target of 25% by 2019/20 this figure will need to increase to around £4.9 billion.

The MOD announced in March 2016 that it had refreshed its SME policy, signalling its intent to do more to tap into SME potential. Its revised approach includes a new Supply Chain Champion and a network of Supply Chain Advocates; a fresh assault on red tape with unnecessary bureaucracy amended or scrapped; and a new online tool for suppliers that highlights opportunities, explains Departmental policy and advises how suppliers can target funding streams.

The MOD’s Supply Chain Advocates are being embedded across the Department with instructions to work on behalf of existing and new suppliers; provide impartial advice and guidance; understand local requirements and needs; and identify any positive or negative trends, escalating these appropriately.

These changes are underpinned by wider MOD commitments to encourage competition and make it easier for companies to innovate within the defence supply chain.

The previous Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Philip Dunne MP, commented: “This new policy is a signal of our intent to do more to tap into the innovation of SMEs in our supply chain.”

The MOD intends to seek to develop new sources of supply by drawing non-traditional suppliers into participating in procurement opportunities across its supply chains.

The approach will help harness British brainpower so that the Armed Forces get the best possible equipment, delivering value for money, while boosting new companies and UK exports.

Procurement policy refresh is just one of the ways that the MOD is making it easier for SMEs to work with the defence sector, and it follows the announcement by the Government of an Innovation Fund aimed at harnessing the entrepreneurship and ingenuity of the private sector and in turn helping the UK to maintain an operational edge over its adversaries.

The MOD, as a large and complex organisation, can appear daunting for SMEs looking to offer niche products. The vast majority of the 1500 or so enquiries it receives each year are from SMEs. The MOD Advocacy role is intended to complement the existing Defence Suppliers Service (DSS). DSS, which is part of the MOD’s Supplier Relations Team (SRT), is the MOD’s focal point for the provision of advice and guidance to companies interested in becoming UK defence suppliers. The DSS helpdesk can be reached on 030 679 32844.

For further information on the role of the Advocacy Network, please contact Sim Carswell, MOD Supply Chain Development Advocate, on 030 679 88595


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