Small But Specialist — 5 Types of Niche Firms That Can Capture UK Government Contracts


When gargantuan UK government contractor Carillion sank in January 2018, it left several sub-contractors wobbling in its wake.

But the long-term aftermath of the collapse might actually benefit SMEs — bodies like the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) are calling for the public sector procurement process to be simplified and the division of large contracts into smaller components to reduce risks.

And this might manifest itself in a windfall for firms whose expertise allows them to punch above their weight.

So the future might be bright for small but specialist businesses — here are five types of niche firms that can capture UK government contracts.

  1. Ventilation

Public sector contracts for renovating NHS hospitals often include requirements for new ventilation systems.

And it’s essential that any contractor is aware of the importance of adhering to wiring regulations and HCVA standards.

So a specialist operator like EnviroVent that offers a completely integrated planning and fitting service with qualified engineers might be perfectly-placed to compete for these types of contracts in future.

  1. Landscape gardening

Government buildings and facilities should be functional and attractive inside and out — so the skills of a landscape gardener like Artisan Landscapes are highly sought-after.

Natural materials like grass, wood and natural stone walls can soften any disagreeable architectural features of buildings under renovation — while creating an ambient environment for staff and visitors.

And landscapers can design and install flower beds, drainage and attractive water features as required.

  1. Digital agencies

As various government departments, agencies and non-departmental bodies update their websites, upgrade intranet systems and train staff on the communication conventions of social media, technical and strategic digital skills are in demand.

So opportunities might arise for a niche digital agency like Attercopia that’s adept at web-build and design, search marketing, content strategy and online paid advertisements.

And state-sponsored schemes like DigitalBoost that provide training and advice for small businesses also require professional advisers to host workshops and act as mentors.

  1. Furniture

Large-scale properties occupied by various arms of the civil service, legislature and judiciary naturally need to ensure their furniture provision is sufficient.

As well as supporting staff to fulfil their operational purpose, chairs, desks and other items need to be designed, installed and maintained to promote good posture and general health — and specially-adapted pieces will probably be required for workers suffering from health problems.

So there are plenty of opportunities for a bespoke furniture manufacturer like Flexiform that designs, creates and installs customised lockers, modular desks, collaborative furniture and meeting pods to throw its hat in the ring.

  1. Glaziers

Both older buildings slated for refurbishment and brand-new premises usually require extensive amounts of glass in their built environments.

So expert glaziers like Float Glass Industries can offer everything from triple-glazed insulated glass units to structural glazing and panels for partitions, screens and balustrades.

And there’s also demand for tough, fire-resistant wired glass in institutions like schools, hospitals and prisons, while customised decorated glass can be produced for unique interior design features.

The glass needs to get to government properties in every corner of the country too — so any firm with an in-house fleet of adapted delivery vehicles can reach the parts others might not.

If government procurement is genuinely made more accessible for SMEs, they can benefit from long-term secure contracts and a mechanism which also exists for several small firms to work together on collaborative bids offers a different angle of approach.

By delivering innovative products and services on time and according to budgets, private sector SMEs, supported businesses and social enterprises might soon be better represented in public sector procurement.

These are just five types of niche firms that can capture UK government contracts — opportunities exist in almost every sector.

Are you an SME working with the public sector? Share your story in the comments section.



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