13 December 2021 | Collaboration

ITS (UK) calls for fair play for SMEs

Large highways and transport businesses are being urged to ensure that they treat small and medium enterprises fairly when delivering major contracts.

The UK’s Intelligent Transport Systems industry association ITS (UK) has heard from some of its smaller members that there have been occasions the SMEs have been used to add expertise in a large supplier’s tender document, only to be left out when a subsequent contract actually begins.

“During our discussions with our SMEs, it became apparent this is quite a commonplace occurrence,” explained ITS (UK) Operations Manger Rukshan Soysa.

“It appears that a minority of large Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers are guilty of boosting the evidence on their tender documents by enlisting SMEs to add their expertise, only to then not use them when the contract is awarded. This seems patently unfair.”

“It was very disappointing to hear that SMEs are being used in this way,” added ITS (UK) Vice Chair Karla Jakeman of Innovate UK. “SMEs not only have specific skills, products or expertise that the industry need, they have the agility to respond quickly to market changes which large businesses mostly lack. SME’s rely on sub contracts to keep their business going and bigger companies actually risk long-term harm from SMEs closing down, a loss to the economy as well as vast knowledge and expertise lost.”

ITS (UK) is calling for large companies to make a public commitment that if they include an SME in a tender, they will use them for the relevant work should they win the contract, or at the very least explain in detail to the SME why circumstances have changed. It would like to hear from large companies that have policies in place regarding SMEs which it could use as examples of best practice. SMEs who feel they have also been affected are invited to get in touch.

SMEs involved in the discussions, who for obvious reasons wish to remain anonymous, have welcomed ITS (UK)’s support for them as valuable aspect of their membership.