The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) is being hailed as a success by many experts as it passes the £100 million mark for public sector contracts awarded to small businesses. With new government plans to expand the SBRI five-fold, things are looking up for small businesses looking for new ways to drum up businesses from public sector courses.
Established four years ago in 2009, the SBRI aims to give SMEs the opportunity to connect with public sector contracts. It invites them to present innovative solutions to specific problems in a competition format, meaning contracts are awarded on merit rather than being in the right place at the right time or already having an established relationship. The ideas presented can result in 100% government funding for development contracts, with the public sector body running the competition. Since being founded, the scheme has run 124 full competitions, resulting in a total of 1270 contracts awarded to SMEs, valuing over £104.8 million – a significant sum.
The March Budget has pledged more funds to expand the SBRI. It will take the value of the contracts offer by the scheme from £40 million in 2012-13 to more than £100 million in 2013-14 and over £200 million in 2014-15. With the range of public sector bodies and SMEs participating in the SBRI potentially limitless, there’s a lot of room to grow this kind of project in a big way, impacting positively on a whole range of SMEs looking for business.
Stephen Browning, Head of SBRI at the Technology Strategy Board, commented: “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. The challenges are expressed as outcome based needs rather than narrow product specification to give greater scope for innovation.”