Thirty3: a year on
Its been an exciting time over the last year. Nitrous has been working with the Greater London Authority and the London Office of Technology & Innovation (LOTI) to provide greater access to local government for SMEs through innovative procurement. In this blog, we’ll tell the story of Thirty3 – the fruits of that labour.
Engaging small to medium-sized organisations (SMEs) is critical for making economies more resilient and unlocking new innovation to advance the world we live in. This is now recognised as vital to the public sector with the government stating that one-third of all procurement pounds must go to SMEs by 2025.
This interest is also present in London, where there are growing GovTech and startup ecosystems ready to engage. However, London has particular and unique challenges, with the 33 London boroughs and the Greater London Authority family organised as separate buying organisations.
This added fragmentation is one factor out of many which are hampering efforts to engage with smaller suppliers, with the 2019 City Tools report from the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) and Bloomberg associates finding that:
‘91% of London’s public sector technology contracts are delivered by 15 suppliers.’
Public sector procurement is a challenging prospect for many businesses, particularly smaller organisations and more needs to happen to streamline the procurement process and make it a more enticing prospect for smaller organisations.
This is the crux of the Thirty3 project and how it came to be.
The Thirty3 partnership
The best way to understand the project and how it evolved over the last year, is to explain a little more about the partners involved:
The Greater London Authority has a key interest in creating more engagement between London government organisations to improve the levels of innovation in the city. By understanding the complexity of procurement in the capital, the initial idea was to create a hub that helps increase visibility and signposting between the public sector and the burgeoning tech sector.
Nitrous, a leader in the CityTech and ProcureTech ecosystems, delivered the technology and procurement innovation insight for this project. Nitrous’ goal is to create the tools and frameworks that help collaboration between the public sector, the innovative SME ecosystem and industry
London Office of Technology & Innovation has been working to help make technology work better for the London boroughs. As outlined in the City Tools report, there are many public organisations who have similar technology contracts, making joint-procurement a distinct opportunity. The problem is, there is very little collaboration between the boroughs. LOTI brought these distinct challenges to the project, making it a key focus of Thirty3.
We’ve been lucky that each organisation brought their own perspectives to the project, shaping Thirty3 to be as effective and all-encompassing as it can be.
As the project progressed, we recognised that the work LOTI was doing with City Tools was an integral part of Thirty3 and could help shape the procurement process. Adding functionality that let boroughs be more transparent about their IT requirements and existing technology partnerships is useful to both SMEs and other local authorities. With joint-procurement being so difficult, we had a real opportunity to bring this to Thirty3.
To make this environment, we added functionality that allows users to match buyer and supplier technologies, attribute IT solutions to tenders, and understand the tech architecture of the London public sector for the first time. This has created a field for boroughs to collaborate and for SMEs to understand the makeup of the organisations they want to work with.
Alongside the work with the London boroughs, SME workshops have given the team crucial feedback and pain points, guiding the platform’s functionality. This level of user engagement has seen features added such as procurement-readiness scores which helps suppliers anticipate and position for hidden requirements, aggregated opportunities from across London and intelligent contract and deadline tracking.
With consultations from both local government and SME suppliers, Thirty3 has managed to encompass the priorities the total buying landscape to become the one-stop-shop for SME and public sector collaboration in London.
The future with Thirty3
Public procurement – especially in London – is a complicated beast and for true revolution to take place, unlocking SME engagement is the first building-block. Boroughs need guidance on innovative procurement practices and making tenders be more SME-friendly.
However, making tenders more SME-friendly aren’t the final piece of the puzzle. We need these businesses to engage with boroughs, to feedback and help make this work. It’s a two-way street and Thirty3 will be at the centre of this collaboration. Plans are already in place to make this happen and we’re excited to be apart of this ground-breaking work.
In addition, Thirty3 isn’t just about local government. We want to gain a deeper understanding of the pain points for small businesses trying to work with the public sector. How can we make Thirty3 work better for them? What needs to happen to help organisations work with their local governments and communities? We’ll be working on new initiatives that work with SMEs to get the most out of Thirty3 and London procurement – stay tuned.
In light of the pandemic and overall challenging forecast for SMEs, tools like Thirty3 are becoming increasingly necessary for survival. Public and private collaboration has always been a challenging process, and it is critical for the health of the economy and making London a more resilient city.