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Open Frameworks in UK Procurement: Key Differences and Opportunities for Bidders

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Feb 27, 2024

Both public sector buyers and suppliers alike are preparing for the changes and impact of the UK Procurement Act, which will take effect from October 2024. A vital aspect of this transformation is the introduction of open frameworks, which aims to foster a more inclusive environment, which allows for change.

We expect this to be particularly beneficial for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and emerging businesses eager to participate in public sector contracts.

Understanding Open Frameworks

Before we discuss open frameworks, let’s just confirm what public sector procurement frameworks are. A framework is a type of ‘approved supplier list’ used by the public sector to ensure procurement compliance, and it is commonly used to establish long-term relationships with groups of vetted suppliers by on their specific products, services or works. They typically last 4 years and once awarded they are closed to new suppliers for the duration. For example, a housing association requires electrical contractors. Due to their geography and assessment of the marketplace place they know they will require 4 electrical contractors. Setting up a framework agreement will be an efficient way to engage and approve the suppliers, without having to go through the full tender process each time. They of course still have to ensure they achieve value for money. In our article, ‘Everything you need to know about a framework agreement,’ which can be found here, we provide far more detail and insight.

Open frameworks, as introduced by the Procurement Act, are similar thankfully. However, allow further flexibility in the call-off from the framework and can be re-opened to new suppliers! They function as an extended framework that is periodically reopened to invite new suppliers. The open frameworks can have a maximum duration of eight years and can be refreshed, allowing new entrants to join partway through the agreement.

This is a significant change from the conventional framework agreements, which had a fixed set of suppliers for their entire duration. The introduction of open frameworks is a progressive move towards enhancing competition, promoting innovation, and supporting SMEs in the public sector procurement space.

The Impact of Open Frameworks on Bid Writing

The open frameworks directly impact the bid writing process. Under the new regime, suppliers, particularly SMEs, have the opportunity to enter the framework during the agreement's lifespan. This flexibility allows businesses that might not have been ready to bid at the time of the original advertisement to participate later.

Bid writers must take into account the changing dynamics of the procurement process. They need to stay informed about the opening of the framework to new suppliers and be prepared to submit bids at these times. This necessitates a more proactive and dynamic approach to bid writing, with a focus on strategic timing and readiness to seize new opportunities.

By allowing new entrants, open frameworks promote competition, drive innovation, and ensure the delivery of high-quality and cost-effective services. They also support the growth of SMEs by providing them with more opportunities to participate in public sector contracts.

The Procurement Act Frameworks – A New Era of Transparency

The Procurement Act ushers in a new era of transparency in public sector procurement. The Act mandates the publication of notices throughout the procurement lifecycle, ensuring that procurement information is publicly available. This enhances transparency, supports effective competition, and provides the public with insights into how their money is being spent.

Bid Writing for Open Frameworks – A Guide for SMEs

For SMEs, eager to participate in public sector contracts, the introduction of open frameworks presents a golden opportunity. To make the most of this opportunity, SMEs need to understand the nuances of open frameworks and adapt their bid writing strategies accordingly.

Key UK framework organisations such a Crown Commercial Services, will continue to change and adapt their procedures so will continue to be key partners providing access to public sector buyers and contracts. Within our frameworks page we detail the key framework providers, their frameworks, along with some top tips. You can find this information by clicking here.

Here are some key aspects for SMEs to consider:

1. Stay Informed:

Stay updated about the opening of the framework to new suppliers and be prepared to submit bids during these times.

2. Understand the Framework Terms:

Understand the terms of the open framework, including the goods or services to be provided, the pricing mechanisms, and the selection process for awarding contracts. Increased flexibility and negotiation being some key changes. Details of the Competitive Flexible Procedure can be found here, which provides more information on these specific implications.

3. Prepare for Competition:

Prepare for a competitive tendering procedure, as open frameworks must be competed and direct awards more controlled and transparent.

4. Be Aware of Exclusions:

Be mindful of the exclusion and debarment provisions in the Act. Ensure compliance with all legal and ethical requirements to avoid disqualification. Contract management is being invested in further by the public sector, which provides an opportunity for suppliers and bidders to demonstrate their proactive and collaborative approach.

5. Leverage the Opportunity:

Leverage the opportunity presented by open frameworks to compete for and win more public contracts and tenders.

To develop your bid writing skills and maximise your win rate when tendering for government contracts, why not take a look at our ‘Bid Writing Ultimate Guide’ or the ‘Ultimate Guide of Selling into the Public Sector’.

Embracing the Future of Procurement

The introduction of open frameworks under the Procurement Act 2023 marks a significant shift in the UK's public sector procurement landscape. By fostering a more inclusive and competitive environment, open frameworks are set to make positive changes in the procurement process and create new opportunities for businesses, particularly useful for SMEs.

As the procurement landscape evolves, businesses need to stay informed, adapt their strategies, and embrace the opportunities presented by these changes. The future of procurement is here, and it promises to be more open, inclusive, and competitive than ever before.

Open Frameworks in Summary: Bid Writing Consultancy Perspective

The introduction of open frameworks is a step in the right direction for the UK's public sector procurement. It is a testament to the government's commitment to promoting transparency, competition, and inclusivity. As we look ahead, businesses, especially SMEs, should grab this opportunity and participate enthusiastically in the new procurement regime. The future is open! Monitoring framework spend and which are more lucrative and worth the investment will become increasingly transparent as a result of further changes.

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