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Queen’s Speech sets out plans for SME-friendly procurement

The 2021 Queen’s Speech set out government plans in several key areas, including an increased focus on innovation and new efforts to make public procurement more accessible to SMEs.

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The Queen’s Speech summarises the government’s legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session.

Among the many acts of legislation set to put be put before parliament this year is a new Procurement Bill, which will modernise the way public contracts - worth around £50 billion in total each year - are awarded in the UK.

The Bill aims to overhaul “complex and inflexible” procurement processes and replace them with simple, modern procedures that make it easier for smaller organisations and new entrants to win public contracts.

Part of the transition will include ensuring social value credentials play a stronger role when picking suppliers. A 'National Procurement Policy Statement’ will be introduced, requiring buyers to give due regard to the government’s strategic priorities when awarding contracts. These include supporting jobs and skills, increasing diversity and innovation, and tackling climate change and waste reduction.

What is Social Value?

In May, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced its own plans to increase spending with SME manufacturers and put social value at the heart of its procurement policy

Elsewhere in the Queen’s Speech, the government outlined plans to reform the skills system. This will include a ‘Lifelong Loan Entitlement’ which will give every adult access to up to four years’ worth of student loans they can use flexibly across their lifetime.

The government will also publish a new Innovation Strategy this summer to outline where it will focus R&D spending over the coming years, which are set to see the fastest ever increase in public innovation funding. The plans include the creation of an Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), which will help to fund ‘high risk, high reward’ R&D initiatives.

Nearly £15 billion is being invested in R&D in 2021-22, bringing public R&D spending to its highest level for four decades.

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