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Inspiring Success in Competition Bids

21st Jul, 2023

You’re sitting at your desk. Suddenly, you’ve been asked to put a bid in for a competition.

You may have already submitted several competition bids or none at all. Whatever your experience, there is often a feeling of anticipation, uncertainty, and so many questions. We’ve experienced this through supporting many organisations with similar concerns to bid successfully into various funding competitions. We have also been on the other side, managing the delivery and awards for competitive funding schemes. 

There are many organisations that we’ve helped within the energy efficiency space. Projects and schemes that we’ve supported bids for include:  

  • Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) 
  • Green Deal 
  • Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) 
  • Green Heat Networks Fund 
  • Heat Pump Ready 
  • Green Skills Fund 

Similar schemes in the form of the Heat Pump Investment Accelerator (HPIA) and Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) Phase 3c were recently launched. At Gemserv, we have extensive knowledge in bidding across the builds, heat and energy efficiency sectors. To raise the success of your bid for related projects and schemes, we wanted to share some of our insight that you can use. We’ve supported hundreds of organisations in applying for competition funding, and here’s what many overlook for success. 

Engage in the development cycle 

Express interest early to inform your thinking about the competition. You can do this by engaging with trade associations or sharing feedback directly with the team developing the competition before it opens. This ensures that you can address any concerns you may have with the scheme design early. It is often not possible to change the scope of the scheme once the invitation to tender or final guidance has been published. 

Get the work done early 

It can be easy to push drafting down the line when you have other priorities, especially if deadlines for competition bids are a few months away. All too often the detail needed to put a successful bid together leads to more work than first thought. There’s nothing worse than missing crucial details, then finding them when a deadline is looming and the delivery team is overstretched. Getting into the details of the scheme early and being able to address resourcing needs early is key to resolving this pitfall.  

Form a consortium 

The old saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ rings true here. Consortium forming is a great way to combine the complementary competitive advantages and specialisms of like-minded organisations to make a stronger bid. The key is to ensure the consortium functions as a collaborative project team across the organisations involved, rather than working in silos which can jeopardise delivery. Too many times organisations have come together with good intentions and the prospect of a promising delivery. They’ve won funding, and then overlooked the need to work collaboratively, leading to delivery challenges. Successful consortia require strong leadership, clear roles and responsibilities, project management, and good coordination. 

Engage with available support 

Whilst competition communications provide most of the information needed, there are often nuances within your bid situation that aren’t answered. Engaging with the available support early is critical. This ensures you have a clear understanding of the bid requirements specific to your unique circumstances. Communicating as much as possible will boost your understanding, and therefore the potential for a successful bid, whilst saving you time overall. 

In collaboration with partners, Gemserv has delivered a series of bid support workshops across energy efficiency schemes. Examples include SHDF and heat networks competitions, such as HNIP and the Heat Networks Efficiency Scheme (HNES). This involved helping applicants to navigate scheme complexities that weren’t obvious in the initial competition communications. Working together led to them putting forward a successful bid that gave confidence to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)) in their delivery. 

Leverage independent support 

Seeking independent support will help give direction and insight for developing the best bid matched to your circumstances. Having a critical friend throughout the process is often useful for gaining a new perspective and ensuring you meet the bid criteria. When working on developing a bid, there can be a tendency to develop tunnel vision. An outside expert perspective can be useful for keeping the bid on track.  

As an example, Gemserv worked as part of the Social Housing Retrofit Accelerator (SHRA) support for the SHDF Wave 2.1. This involved engaging bids which were each at different stages of bid development. We provided guidance, expertise and support for several bids, including Birmingham City Council, Network Homes, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. By offering support in this way, Gemserv was able to successfully encourage engagement and monitor project progress. This resulted in a clearer approach to social housing providers’ retrofit strategy which gave them a strong foundation for success.  

Whether reading this confirmed your approach for bidding, helped to get a second opinion, or assisted in understanding the activities that will increase your chances of success, we hope you find them useful. If you’re still unsure of how is best to approach competition bids, need bid writing support or competition management, Gemserv has well-rounded knowledge and experience to support you. Contact us to find out more.


Will Hargreaves

Policy Consultant - Low Carbon

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