Public sector tendering opportunities are a valuable way to secure new business, with hundreds of local contracts published every week in every sector, from healthcare and IT to construction and transport.

Many local authorities, NHS trusts and government departments now handle procurement electronically to save money and time as well as ensuring compliance with the latest regulations.

It is therefore vital for businesses to ensure they do not miss out on any potential opportunities in their own local area, throughout the UK or mainland Europe, according to Tim Williams, managing director of electronic tendering specialist Millstream, which runs the Tenders Direct and myTenders websites.

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates
Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

“The days of the printed version of the Official Journal of European Union are long gone and there is no effective way to keep track of all the opportunities without using an online system, particularly in today’s fast-paced world of business,” said Tim, whose company recently won a contract to run the national procurement portal for the Welsh Government.

“Procurement processes will all be conducted entirely online in the near future and the Government’s target is for procurement to be completely electronic by 2016, so it’s vital that companies make sure they don’t miss anything.

“We aim to make it as easy as possible for purchasers in the public sector to advertise their tenders and to help small and medium sized companies to identify new business opportunities and crucially, to give them the best chance of winning that work.”

Tenders Direct was established by Tim in 1992, to make it easy for subscribers to find information on public contracts.

It provides bespoke and manually categorised daily alerts for customers on public sector tenders, including low value tenders that offer potentially lucrative opportunities for smaller organisations.

More than 4,000 companies, from sole traders to multinationals, use Tenders Direct and almost 29 million new business opportunity alerts have been sent out over the past 20 years.

Unlike most other tender alert services on the market, Millstream does not use the European Commission’s CPV procurement codes as they are notoriously ineffective at identifying business opportunities.

Instead it has evolved its own system, which very closely reflects the range of products and services purchased by the public sector.

Millstream’s staff read and individually categorise every contract notice, to guarantee that users receive all the relevant opportunities without the distraction of irrelevant information.

“Smaller contracts, with a value of less than £100,000, tend to be of particular interest to more local companies as they have a realistic chance of winning these,” said Tim. “The entry requirements and level of competition are much lower and councils prefer to award contracts to suppliers in their area if at all possible.

“Therefore our advice is that it may be better to go for smaller ones to start with, and look at who has previously awarded contracts, who won it and why, the value and duration of the contract. Pick your best prospects and focus on the ones you think you have the best chance of securing, while balancing it with existing work.”

Tenders Direct users can opt to receive Contract Award Notices which give details of the companies which are winning contracts. Businesses can then use this information as a market monitoring tool and also to identify possible sub-contracting opportunities.

Tim also advises ensuring that the information submitted is clear and easy to read.

“State clearly what you can offer, when you will do it and what the cost will be. Also make sure you can demonstrate that your business is big enough to cope if you are awarded the contract. The easier you can make it for the procurement officer, the greater the chance of making it through to the next stage.

“It’s important to build a relationship with potential clients – competitors may already be working with them and if you’re not, you are starting at a disadvantage.

“Our target is to ensure that if a tender is published anywhere, we will have that information available for our subscribers, so that they don’t have to worry about missing any opportunities or losing out on business to their competitors.”

  • As well as Tenders Direct, myTenders and training programmes, Millstream also operates the national procurement websites for Scotland, Wales and Norway. For more information, call 01224 636999 or visit

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