Finding Tenders for Free (UK)
How to Find Public Sector Tenders in the UK – Free
Many UK public sector contract opportunities are advertised and so can be found easily and at at no cost. This applies to all public-type bodies and therefore you can find tenders for central government, local government / council, NHS, utilities, housing associations etc.
There are two main websites for finding public sector opportunities – split into TED (EU high-value) and Contracts Finder (high & low-value) contracts. There are also many different portals where you can find tenders for free.
High-Value Public Sector Tenders / OJEU Tenders – TED
EU regulations stipulate these have to be advertised across Europe. You can pay for services that alert you when a government type 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!
This is a fairly easy and free way to check for high-value public sector tenders (OJEU tenders) advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union and online at Tenders Electronic Daily (TED):
Quick Search Method:
- Go to UK on map
- Choose Search – top RHS (not Expert Search)
- Insert “UK” in Country field
- In Full Text field insert “kent” (or sussex, london etc.)
- OR “construction” (or home care, cleaning, security etc.)
- In Scope (drop down) chose ‘All current notices’
- Press Search
You can also use the ‘Expert Search’ option to do more sophisticated searches (eg refine by CPV or NUTS codes).
- Set up your own account in order to create your own specific saved-search profiles and to save time in future
- Once registered, you can also search archives to see who won previously awarded contracts
- Check weekly & just make a note on the number you got up to last time
- Best to check weekly – sometimes the deadlines are very short
- Some large ‘contract award announcements’ may be worth following up as the main contractor may need sub-contractors
- Work below TED’s threshold should appear in Contracts Finder (below)
Low-Value & High-Value Public Sector Tenders – Contracts Finder
This UK Government portal was set up to help small & medium size business win low-value public sector contacts – Contracts Finder. It now also has high-value tender opportunities.
Contracts Finder covers England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own dedicated public sector procurement websites. These are:
New low-value public sector contract opportunities over £10k (central Government) or £25k (local Government) are published in Contracts Finder unless local rules or use of a framework allow for the market to be restricted. Registration is FREE! Like TED, you can search for live opportunities and awarded contracts. Contracts Finder also shows the high-value opportunities advertised in TED.
- Simple searches can give you too wide a range of results – too many to quickly review:
- Search for any of the keywords: use an OR search e.g. radio television
- An advanced search will provide more focussed results:
- Search for all the keywords: use an AND search by placing a + with no spaces e.g. administration+defence
- Search for a phrase or exact match: use quotes e.g. “Department of Health”
- Once you have run a search, you have lots of options to refine the results e.g. location, CPV etc.
- Register for a free account so you can receive FREE email alerts
- “Save My Search” and choose daily email alerts
- Daily alerts are best as you get alerted as soon as an opportunity is published – gives you maximum time to respond
- To see contract awards, run a search then look for Notice Status – select Awarded
Other UK Public Sector Tender Portals
In addition to TED and Contracts Finder, there are many 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 to can search for your service/product.
There are many across the UK, here are some examples:
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. However, some other private sector tenders get advertised.
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.
The high value (OJEU) thresholds are listed on GOV.UK (UK only).
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’ which shows their procurement process, web-portals, and thresholds for quotes, mini-tenders etc.
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