SME access to public procurement: An analysis of the experiences of SMEs supplying the publicly funded UK heritage sector

Kim Loader*, Sophie Norton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research examining the relationship between small suppliers and public sector procurers has tended to portray small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as being homogeneous. However, there have been calls for further study of the SME population, in relation to public procurement, in recognition of its diverse nature. This paper contributes to the debate by exploring the experiences of SMEs supplying traditional building skills to the publicly funded UK heritage sector. Our analysis demonstrates that the heritage sector has distinct characteristics which affect the public procurement of traditional building skills. Specifically, the uncertain nature of the work and the key role of the architect demand a specialist input from the public sector procurer. Other experiences compare with those reported across the broader SME population, including the preference to supply directly rather than subcontract, the reluctance to form consortia and the benefit of demonstrating a track record. We argue that this evidence of distinctiveness within the heritage sector suggests that policymakers and practitioners need a greater understanding of the requirements of SME suppliers in different sectors. Attempts to improve participation and success of SMEs in the public procurement process require that consideration is given to the need for a distinct, sector-driven, remedy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-250
JournalJournal of purchasing and supply management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Heritage
  • Public procurement
  • Sector
  • SMEs
  • UK

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