A Changing Tide: Public Sector Bidding in a New Market

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Riding the wave after the storm

‘Riding the wave’ in public sector bidding is an interesting topic within its own right. The last two years have seen a dramatic shift in our approach to bidding and interaction with buying authorities.

Much of the pipeline recovery can be attributed to the use of tendering to help rebuild communities post-COVID, as indicated in the Government’s Green Paper, Transforming Public Procurement, published at the end of 2020.

The new wave

Observing this new wave has been fascinating and is coupled with recently joining a sector that is still considered ‘new’ in many camps – Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure. This could therefore be described as ‘riding the double wave’!

In its EV infrastructure strategy, the Government sets out the vision and plan for the rollout of an EV charging infrastructure in the UK, aligned to their commitment for net zero emissions by 2050.

The Government recognises the crucial role that local authorities play in meeting commitments, but also acknowledges this is a new and complex area for them to navigate.

With authorities getting to grips with the infrastructure requirements, this could impact the way in which they approach bidding and going to tender on these projects.

The impact is not necessarily negative though. In fact, it could signal new ways of working and communicating between buyer and supplier as this new market sector is bought into focus.
This is further emphasised by the existing On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS), which can provide grant funding to local authorities to install chargepoints. Covering these costs appears to signal a revised focus on the quality offering of the tender, not just the price.

Authorities focusing more readily on the quality element of bids will ensure the way they operate is more outcome driven. It feels like we, as suppliers and buyers, are riding this wave together to ensure successful project delivery and encourage the continuation of bidding best practice in a sector that did not really exist a decade ago.

Uncharted waters
Entering into a less established sector provides the opportunity to try and apply all the best practice, expertise and insight developed throughout your career in bidding as the sector grows, including library development and model responses.

This could be considered a daunting prospect. It could also be considered an exciting opportunity for those involved in the tendering process (from wherever they are positioned within it) for collaborative working, stronger communication and, ultimately, successful project delivery.

In particular, I feel the lines of communication have extended and the level of understanding has deepened between supplier and buyer. This is something to be celebrated in the changing landscape of bids and tenders. For instance, a large percentage of EV infrastructure tenders are available via Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) – flexible frameworks that suppliers can join at any time. As the need for EV infrastructure continues to grow, potential suppliers have more visibility of buyer requirements on the horizon, through open dialogue and a ready response to any clarification questions we may raise.

Additionally, a significant number of the EV infrastructure tenders that are being released have a less prescriptive feel to them. This provides suppliers the chance to showcase their technology, added value and innovation. In many respects, this feels like a new way of bidding, where the destination has been set but the road you decide upon is autonomous.

Similar to the more open dialogue that is occurring through the use of a DPS, the same could be said for the actual tender process itself. As suppliers of EV Infrastructure are a relatively new (and somewhat niche) addition to public procurement exercises, there seems to be more willingness from buying authorities to engage with us prior to tender submission.

This has become apparent through their swift clarification responses or through the conduct of an early engagement exercise (even before tender release).

A new horizon

The EV infrastructure sector is set to continue to grow and evolve. I am excited to see how the arena of bids will move along with it. The necessity to maintain momentum in this sector and to ride the wave is key to delivering net zero road transport and helping to tackle the continuing climate crisis. We are riding the waves in uncharted water but safe land is on the horizon.

This article was written by Isabella Stevenson .

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