The Department for Transport (DfT) has set out plans to level the playing field for small businesses bidding for government contracts.

In its SME Action Plan, the DfT has committed to directing a third of its procurement spending towards small and medium-sized enterprises by 2022.

As part of this pledge, the department has also awarded £700,000 in Transport Technology Research Innovation Grants (T-TRIG) to support innovative transport projects, including a universal train access ramp that would help disabled people board trains more easily across the network.

Transport minister Jo Johnson said:

Small and medium-sized businesses play a key role in this country’s economy and I am proud of our outstanding record in this area.

With this new action plan, we are leading by example by making it easier for these businesses to bid for contracts, and we will continue to support them over the coming years.

This year, out of 23 innovative transport projects given a share of £700,000, 14 were from small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 members of staff.

These projects include:

  • a system to encourage uptake of electric taxis by providing live information on charge points for electric private hire vehicles
  • an app (Signly) that improves communication and passenger experience for people who use sign language
  • developing software to improve the use of airspace and reduce commercial flight times

T-TRIG funds organisations with innovative early-stage projects, which show promising transport benefits for the UK. It has already provided a total of around £2 million of innovation funding since its launch in 2014.

Today’s announcement bolsters the Department of Transport’s existing support for small businesses, with the department having exceeded its initial target for procurement spend with SMEs.

It also comes as part of the government’s growth agenda which seeks to maximise the positive impact of public spending on boosting the economy.

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