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Government small business initiative exceeds £100m in deals

Karl Flinders

A Technology Strategy Board initiative to help small businesses create technologies to support the public sector has generated over £100m worth of contracts since its launch in 2009.

Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which aims to fund companies to develop products in response to needs identified by the public sector, was launched in April 2009. Since then it has run 124 full tender competitions, resulting in 1,270 contracts awarded to SMEs – many of which are IT-related – at a total value of £104.8m.

In the recent budget, the government said it would expand SBRI to increase the value of contracts through this route from £40m in 2012-13 to over £100m in 2013-14 and over £200m in 2014-15.

Some of the successful technologies already developed and purchased by public sector organisations include mobile security technology for the Home Office and assistive learning software for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“The beauty of the SBRI is that it presents a truly win-win scenario, whereby government departments can find solutions to very real problems, whilst small businesses have an opportunity to present their ideas to organisations that may otherwise be unreachable," said Stephen Browning, head of SBRI at the Technology Strategy Board.

"The challenges are expressed as outcome-based needs, rather than narrow product specification, to give greater scope for innovation," he said.

According to the most recent government figures, central government spent 10% of its total budget with SMEs in 2011/12. This is a significant improvement on the 6.5% spent with SMEs in 2009/10 and 6.8% in 2010/11.

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