Finding Tenders for Free (UK)
How to Find Public Sector Tenders in the UK – Free
Finding UK public sector contract opportunities over £10,000 is easy and free. All public organisations and those providing public services must advertise tender opportunities on government websites. So, you can find tenders for central government, local government / councils, NHS, utilities, housing associations, police etc.
Prior to Brexit there were two main ways to find public sector opportunities: Contracts Finder etc. (UK high & low-value) and TED (EU high-value). Post-Brexit, TED is replaced by Find a Tender Service (high-value contracts UK) replaces for . There are also many area / sector specific portals where you can find tenders for free.
UK Low-Value & High-Value Public Sector Tenders – Contracts Finder etc.
The Government portals like Contracts Finder were set up to help small & medium size business win low-value public sector contracts in England. They now also encompass high-value tender opportunities.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own dedicated public sector procurement websites:
UK-wide opportunities (i.e. in more than one UK nation) are advertised in each appropriate national portal.
New low-value public sector contract opportunities in England over £10k (central Government) or £25k (local Government and NHS Trusts) are published in Contracts Finder. Unless local rules or use of a framework allow for the market to be restricted.
Contracts Finder also includes high-value opportunities (usually above £118,000) advertised in Find a Tender Service.
If, for example, you are only looking for tenders in England you probably need only ever use Contracts Finder. (Or the other UK nation’s websites if you are in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland). Thus simplifying matters.
Registration is FREE! You can search for live opportunities, contract awards and get tender alerts. You can pay for services that alert you when a public tender comes up that meets your criteria. But many smaller businesses just won’t have enough suitable tenders to justify the expense – especially when you don’t even need to need pay!
Finding Tenders Using Contracts Finder
How to Search For Tenders in Contracts Finder:
- Register for a free account
This will enable you to receive FREE email alerts.
- Simple searches are a good place to start
But they can give you too wide a range of results – too many to review quickly / easily.
Try searching for multiple keywords by using an OR search e.g. radio television.
- An advanced search will provide more focussed results
Search for all the keywords using an AND search by placing a + with no spaces e.g. administration+defence.
Search for a phrase or exact match using quotes e.g. “Department of Health”.
- Once you have run a search, you have lots of options to refine the results e.g. location, classifications (CPV) etc.
Chose what suits your needs.
But don’t refine too much initially as you can end up excluding opportunities that you want.
You can also change this later (see below).
- “Save My Search” and choose daily email alerts
Daily alerts are best as you get notified as soon as an opportunity is published – giving you maximum time to respond.
You can also set up and save more searches to be alerted to other types of tenders (if required).
- You will probably get lots of alerts but it’s easy to sift through them
It’s much better getting too many than missing an opportunity you really want.
You can refine your saved search if the results are constantly too broad.
- You can also run a search to find out who won a contract
Run a search then look for Notice Status and select Awarded.
Very useful for researching when your target contracts are next due for tender.
See who won the contract for more details.
Find a Tender Service
From January 1st 2021, Find a Tender replaces the requirement for UK high-value public sector tenders to be posted on TED.
High-value contracts are advertised in Contracts Finder etc. So, you may not need to use Find a Tender. But if you are looking for high-value opportunities in England, Scotland, Wales and/or Northern Ireland, then it is the right portal for free searches and alerts.
Other UK Public Sector Tender Portals
There are many other UK tender portals for finding tenders for free. They show contract opportunities for councils, housing associations etc. You can create your own free account and set up alerts for tenders. Some allow you to post a profile so that public sector buyers can search for your service/product.
Here are some examples:
The tender portal for NHS contract opportunities in England. https://nhsengland.bravosolution.co.uk/web/login.html
EU High-Value Public Sector Tenders / OJEU Tenders – TED
EU regulations stipulate that EU members must advertise high-value public sector tenders across Europe.
NB Post-Brexit high-value UK public sector tenders are no longer required to be advertised in the EU. See ‘Find a Tender’. (There is still a requirement to advertise on TED where the process was started using TED e.g. dual publishing.)
Private Sector & Worldwide Tenders
In the UK there is no obligation for most private companies to advertise tenders. The only exceptions are firms like utilities, housing associations and some main contractors delivering outsourced public services (normally tendering for sub-contractors for their contract). So, finding private sector tenders is usually achieved through traditional sales methods.
Globally there are numerous tender portals in many different countries.
These tender alert services are worth looking at. They are free or offer free options:
CompeteFor was the publication of 2012 Games-related contract opportunities. It is now used by many different public sector organisations as well as a few private companies. www.competefor.com
Useful Information on Finding UK Tenders and Tendering
Doing Business with Government: Guide for SMEs Government guide for small and medium sized businesses on bidding for government contracts. It also has details on the Mystery Shopper service where you can raise concerns anonymously on unfair public sector procurement practice.
When dealing with low-value council contracts, have a look at the council’s web site. Normally it will have a page called something like ‘doing business with the council’. It typically shows their procurement process, web-portals, and thresholds for quotes, mini-tenders etc.
Latest UK Public Procurement Thresholds
More tendering resources – Information on Public Sector Tenders
Details on what you need to consider before tendering in the Fit To Tender Checklist
A guide to the most commonly used terms and abbreviations – Tender Terms and Glossary
A guide to understanding Government and Council Tenders
How to decide if the tender opportunity is right for you Qualifying Tenders