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Supporting diverse SMES to become fit to procure

The 25th of June marked the beginning of a ground-breaking programme that will help small firms in the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership area to become suppliers to large firms and flagship building initiatives

We are talking about the Diverse Supply Chains project. A 3-year research-based, corporation-led programme based at Aston Business School of Aston University. A team of colleagues led by Professor Nick Theodorakopoulos and Professor Monder Ram have partnered with HS2, Balfour Beaty Vinci, Natwest and the Birmingham City Council to deliver this fascinating project.

The project launch attracted over a hundred delegates. They heard from our very own Professor Nick Theodorakopoulos, who referred to the two decades of pioneering research  that underpins the DSC project, which will be a major contribution to the inclusion and diversity agenda.

Luke Goodison, Supplier Management Analyst from High Speed 2 (HS2) talked about the importance Diverse Supply Chains to their procurement plans. The innovative work of HS2, Luke continued, will provide 400,000 supply chains contract opportunities for UK businesses and around two thirds of this will be expected to be led by SMEs, that is approximately 133,000 procurement opportunities across a whole range of sectors.

Matt Munn, Head of Supply Management of Balfour Beaty Vinci, explained the relevance of the DSC project to BBV by quoting Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd CEO who stated that “Equality, diversity and inclusion is critical to our success.. It is important that HS2 as a company represents the many and varied communities that it will impact”. Matt’s presentation underscored how supporting the DSC project was the right thing to do, as it offers a blueprint for inclusive procurement for the industry. Matt then explained that the 15th of July, in the first workshop Is your business ready to enter the supply chains market?, BBV together with HS2 will provide details of how SMEs can become fit to procure.

From Birmingham City Council we heard Rokneddin Shariat, Procurement Strategy Manager talk about how in their work with the DSC project, they will support diverse SMEs access public sector contracts and become better able to at doing precisely this. Shariat emphasised the support on offer to help SMEs become more appealing to contractors by emphasising their social value, which strikes a chord with research by Professor Monder Ram and colleagues at CREME. In fact, Shariat continued, there will be a workshop specifically focused on social value the 23rd of July (The importance of social values and CSR when putting a bid together) and another one focused on how to tender for the council the 7th of October (Introduction to Procurement by the Birmingham City Council)

Andy Lee, Strategic Lead for Inclusion and Diversity, from Natwest walked the audience through the type of work Natwest has been doing for the past 6 years, in collaboration with colleagues at CREME supporting SMEs and families thrive. He emphasised how the DSC was a great opportunity to support SMEs become fit to procure. In particular, Natwest will be supporting via the delivery of a workshop Importance of GDPR rules and Cyber Security when putting a bid together to be held the 13th of July, 2020.

Professor Monder Ram from CREME closed the session restating the excitement around this project given that it builds on 2 decades of research on supply chain diversity. With this project, Monder continued, was to incorporate all the insights learned from previous efforts and research. Excellent partners surround this flagship project for the region and “with flagship projects comes opportunity” and minority businesses from many groups precisely need this. Finally, Professor Ram concluded, the DSC project team will function as the intermediaries to connect diverse SMEs in the region with big corporation of the likes of HS2, BBV and Natwest. This will then permit the DSC project to become an exemplar of how to implement this agenda nationally and demonstrate the value of having a genuine diverse supply chain at a national level as exemplified by the diversity of partners and collaborators we have been working with.

For further information about the project follow us on:

·       Twitter: @ERDF_DSC and

·       Linkedin: @Diverse Supply Chains