The government has launched an ICT procurement deal designed specifically for education bodies, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) increasing their participation.
The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) worked with the Department for Education to create a framework based on sector feedback, which aims to simplify the process of purchasing technology products and services for organisations in the education sector.
Some 40 suppliers have been awarded places under the new deal, which will enable schools, colleges and universities to buy IT such as hardware, audiovisual equipment and broadband fibre infrastructure to equip or refresh their estates.
The deal runs for three years, with the potential for a 12-month extension. A pool of 21 suppliers were named on Lot 1 of the agreement in June.
According to CCS, 78% of the suppliers included in the framework are SMEs. It added that representation by smaller suppliers has been increasingly growing within procurement in education, with 46% of a total of £44m of IT spend going to these companies under the previous framework.
The government has a target of increasing its spend with SMEs to 33% by 2020, but direct and indirect spend has dropped significantly.
However, a Commons Science and Technology Committee said earlier this year that government spend with SMEs was going in the wrong direction and that change in procurement processes was sorely needed.
Giving evidence to the committee, Chris Johnson from the UK Computing Research Committee, said the Ministry of Defence, which accounts for 45% of all government expenditure, had only spent 13% of its total spend with SMEs in 2016/17.
The CCS has been focusing on changing public sector procurement to make it easier to do business with.
Niall Quinn, technology director at the agency, who joined the CCS in 2017, is driving a new strategy to make purchasing frameworks more intuitive, as well as an agenda of supplier disaggregation to bring more SMEs on board and to release innovation across the public sector.