It’s common knowledge that Defence is a massive global industry, but just how easy is it for UK SMEs to tap into the market? Despite the reputation of the Defence industry as one that’s hard to break into for smaller businesses, many defence contractors are looking to create partnerships with just these sorts of enterprise. The Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) recently held an event at the manufacturing facilities of Oilgear, in Leeds, with the purpose of helping UK SMEs who want to compete for contracts.
Each year billions of pounds is spent globally on defence projects, but many small or medium size businesses may be too intimidated by strict regulations and requirements to try to enter the market. NDI, a trade body which is part of the EEF, is set up to help SMEs in the UK who are interested in bidding for defence contracts. As part of its role it organises conference workshops, giving businesses the chance to network with buyers from the MoD and other contractors.
Every event is designed to offer a unique insight into the pitching process for defence contracts while also opening up the floor for different business to provide advice and forge partnerships. The recent conference titled ‘How to sell to the MoD & Exporting Defence Products’ went one step further. Not only was it attended by guest speakers from the MoD and UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation, it was held on the ISO9001:2008 accredited manufacturing floor of Oilgear – a business who has already seen great success within the defence sector.
Kieran Doyle, Managing Director, Oilgear in the UK, comments: “Both the EEF and NDI provide Oilgear with a great deal of invaluable advice and support, so when the idea was raised to hold the next conference at our facilities I was happy to oblige. We’re particularly proud of our manufacturing, assembly and test area, so we thought it would be a novel approach to hold the event on the shop floor to allow guests to see how we’ve set up our facilities to enable us to service defence contracts.”
The event itself was a great success with representatives of almost 30 SMEs from all over the country in attendance. After a brief introduction from Kelly Madison about NDI, the event was handed over to Philip Margerison, Defence Suppliers’ Service Manager for the MoD, who explained how businesses should begin to access the £800m+ budget that the MoD spends directly with SMEs annually. In the afternoon Howard Gibbs, Head of the Small Business Unit for the UKTI Defence and Security Organisation, explained how his organisation can help businesses identify and win export opportunities to the global defence market.
Speaking about the event, Howard Gibbs explained: “It’s part of our remit to use days like this to provide support to businesses who want to export their products or services to Defence applications outside the UK. We know that from the outside the process can be daunting due to our high standards, but the support is there to ensure that any business that has the right product will have a fair chance at winning the business.
“Combining the conference with a live tour of Oilgear’s facilities helped to drive the event’s message home that the market really is accessible to UK SMEs.”