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Why not tap into public sector projects?

Investment in commercial renewable projects in the UK has never been more diverse. Knowing who has the control of this funding, what kind of projects they are interested in and how to produce viable proposals is an increasingly lucrative skill. Cathryn Hickey explains
There are many factors driving interest in renewables; the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), Feed in Tariffs (FiTs), Green Deal as well as relaxed planning permissions - of particular relevance for the commercial market. Changes, which came into force this April, have removed the need for planning to install most renewable technologies on non-domestic buildings, as long as certain criteria are adhered to.

In addition to the incentives, all new projects have to meet energy efficiency stipulations - this is particularly true in the public sector, with Government and individual council targets to cut carbon forcing a move into environmental technologies.

There are a number of ways to source building services engineering projects in the public sector; here are just a few examples:

  • Following up contract notices published in newspapers and trade magazines

  • Searching contracts finder,, for Government tender notices

  • Doing a free search for 'above threshold' contracts on the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED), - registration is required.

  • Contact your local Enterprise Europe Network:

  • Getting your business on a preferred supplier list is an essential part of this process; to be kept informed of new contracts and have the opportunity to bid for them in the first place. To gain a place on these lists you need to complete a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ).

    PQQs are often compiled periodically, rather than when a specific tender or job comes up. They include set questions designed to ascertain whether a company can meet the requirements of the project holder. For a business to be eligible for most contracts in the public and private sector it must have 'passed' the PQQ. Once a business has passed the PQQ it will stay eligible for a set period. Even if you don't win the contract, compiling these documents is a useful process that will help clarify your aims, strengths and weaknesses.

    When it comes to the actual process of tendering, make sure you view the bid documents and assess whether you can match the requirements; in terms of skills, experience and other factors, such as diversity and environmental policies. You must also make sure you have enough staff to fulfil the brief without jeopardising existing workloads.

    Once you're happy that your business meets the tender's criteria you can then compile the document. To complete a tender you need to complete the following tasks:

  • Carry out background research into the requirements of the job and purchaser

  • Write the bid

  • Plan the delivery method

  • Cost the work

  • Identify partners where necessary

  • Keep informed and manage the bid stages

  • Produce a professionally presented bid

  • Price the bid - this is one of the hardest tasks. Too expensive and you will put off potential customers, too cheap and you may end up losing out financially. Consider each individual task that needs to be carried out and how much each task will cost, in terms of:

  • o Rates for staff and time

    o Rates for specific tasks (if applicable)

    o Fixed costs

    o Material costs

    o Travel and transport

    o Do you need contingency?

    Tendering is a competitive process and you need to get across that your business is the best for the job. It should be clear that you have the skills, capacity and resources to deliver the contract on time and in budget, while highlighting any advantages that makes you more suited than another company; this could be price, location, experience, core values or environmental stance, to name a few.

    When it comes to jobs involving renewables or other low carbon technologies, suppliers may be asked to demonstrate their technical capacity in relation to the environment. Qualifications are sometimes also required, but only where environmental issues are directly related to the contract in question.

    If you have trained with the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies this proves your ability to meet legislative requirements and acquire skills in the latest technologies and techniques. Most purchasers have a low carbon commitment and your link to the Skills Academy and its qualifications will offer them the assurance that you match their commitment. The Skills Academy is currently developing a register of trained installers, scheduled for launch later in the year.

    With a wealth of 'green' projects in the public sector requiring businesses with the right skills to fulfil them, now is the time to ensure your company can take advantage. Training is one part of this, but all the courses in the world won't make a difference if you haven't taken the time to present your business correctly and by getting on preferred supplier lists you will be one of the first in line for new projects. Take a proactive stance, don't wait for the work to come to you and use the support of organisations, like the Skills Academy, to tap in to the pool of new market opportunities.'

    In addition to training, the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies also produces a series of guides to help businesses win more work. Tendering and PQQ support portfolios are available to purchase from its website. The tendering guide is free when bought with the PQQ document at £24.99, or is available separately at £5.99, both from

    // The author is executive director for the Skills Academy //
    6 August 2012


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