Uncontested Territories: Seizing Opportunities in a Competitive Void

Diving into the EU public procurement scene? 

Brace yourself for a realm where, once you step through the threshold, abundant opportunities await.

The latest findings from the European Court of Auditors, spotlighted in Special Report 28/2023, introduce us to a shifting landscape that holds new avenues for suppliers to explore.

Here, we'll unravel the significance of these shifts, guiding you on how to excel in this evolving market.

Plus, discover strategies to harness the potential of the public procurement sector and smoothly navigate its waters, positioning yourself in a market that holds huge potential for suppliers.

In this article: 

  • Understanding the drop: Insights from the European Court of Auditors' Report

  • Public Procurement and the Winning Edge for SMEs

  • Mastering the EU procurement market: Strategies for suppliers to navigate and thrive

  • Future insights: Evolving EU public procurement landscape

  • Conclusion

Understanding the drop: Insights from the European Court of Auditors' report

The European Court of Auditors' new report transforms our view of EU public procurement.

It dives deep into a decade's market competitiveness in works, goods, and services, using TED data to spotlight key trends like 'no bid' cases and single-bidder situations. 

Let's explore the major findings and trends it reveals:


  • Direct awards are trending up: More and more EU public buyers are picking companies directly, skipping the open bidding process. In 2021, this was clear in roughly 15.8% of all EU procurement procedures, indicating a dip in competition.

  • Single-bid procedures are on the rise: Between 2011 and 2021, cases with just one bid soared from 23.5% to 41.8%. This increase highlights a concerning decrease in competitive tenders, leading to some processes finishing with only a single bid, or sometimes none.

  • Bidder numbers are dropping: The average bidders per procedure have decreased from 5.7 to 3.2, almost cutting the competition in half.

  • Different trends in regions and sectors: The report reveals varied bidding trends across areas and industries. Construction, for instance, is seeing more competition, whereas health services and transport are increasingly facing single-bid situations.

  • Cross-border procurement remains limited: Interestingly, only 5% of contracts are awarded through direct cross-border procurements. This low figure shows that few procurement contracts in the EU go to suppliers from other member states, suggesting a big opportunity to boost and ease cross-border procurement within the EU.


What do these trends spell out for suppliers? The message is unmistakable: The market is contracting, and the heat of competition is cooling down.

With fewer bids being submitted, an uptick in direct awards, and more single-bid situations coming to light, we're looking at a marketplace that's becoming increasingly less crowded. This shift opens a golden window for suppliers considering market entry, as the odds of clinching contracts are notably improving.

The dip in competition stems from three hurdles: complex bidding processes, stringent standards, and a lack of procurement knowledge and resources. These barriers, though daunting, are not unbeatable. Acknowledging them is key to leveraging the less competitive market to your advantage.

Public procurement and the winning edge for SMEs

Dive into public procurement, and you'll find a world where SMEs have a real edge. Let's explore how this can be your launchpad to success: 

1. Expansive market opportunities

The public procurement market is vast, spending about €2 trillion yearly, which is 14% of the EU's total economic output. It's an arena where your business can secure dependable, long-term contracts with various government entities. This isn't just about making sales; it's about establishing a foothold in a stable and lucrative market that can sustain your business's growth over time.

2. Stable revenue streams

One of the hallmarks of public contracts is their reliability. They offer a consistent revenue flow, akin to a financial lifeline for businesses. This predictability is invaluable, enabling more accurate forecasting and strategic planning. In a world where cash flow is king, securing a public contract means stabilizing your kingdom's finances.

3. Diverse contracting niches

Public procurement encompasses a vast array of goods and services, from basic supplies to complex infrastructure projects. This diversity opens the door for businesses of all kinds to find their niche. Whether you specialize in IT solutions, consulting, or construction, there's a demand in the public sector that aligns with your expertise.

4. Equitable competition

The public procurement process is designed to level the playing field, allowing SMEs to compete with larger entities on a basis of quality, innovation, and value, rather than sheer scale. This emphasis on fair competition encourages a merit-based selection process, offering smaller businesses a genuine opportunity to win contracts.

5. Enhanced visibility and networking

Securing a public contract does more than just boost your revenue; it elevates your business's profile. It connects you with key decision-makers, broadens your professional network, and enhances your market credibility. This visibility can be a catalyst for further growth, opening doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

6. Innovation and sustainability incentives

The public sector is increasingly prioritizing innovative solutions and sustainable practices. For agile SMEs, this trend represents a chance to stand out by offering cutting-edge, eco-friendly products or services. It's an opportunity to not just participate in the market but to lead it, shaping future trends and preferences.

7. Capacity and capability building

Navigating the public procurement process is a rigorous exercise that can strengthen your business from the inside out. It demands a deep understanding of compliance, risk management, and operational efficiency, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. This experience doesn't just prepare you for more public contracts; it enhances your business's overall resilience and competitiveness.

8. Contractual security and transparency

Public contracts come with a level of security and predictability that's hard to find in the private sector. Clear terms, scheduled payments, and established dispute resolution mechanisms provide a safeguarded environment for your business operations. This framework of transparency and legal protection is particularly appealing, reducing the risks typically associated with business transactions.

By delving into public procurement, your business isn't just chasing contracts; it's embracing an opportunity for stability, growth, and innovation. This sector offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards, making it a fertile ground for SMEs ready to expand their horizons and solidify their market presence.

Mastering the EU procurement market: Strategies for suppliers to navigate and thrive

Navigating the EU procurement market successfully means turning its complexities into your advantages. Here’s a streamlined approach to not just survive but thrive: 

1. Getting to know the terrain

  • Dive Into market research: It’s crucial to get a grip on the types of contracts out there, what public buyers are looking for, and where your offerings fit in. Keeping tabs on upcoming opportunities through procurement portals can give you the upper hand.

  • Learn and network: Hit the books and the network circuit. Forums, workshops, and seminars are not just about learning; they’re your ticket to insider insights and making connections that count.

2. Engaging early and influencing decisions

  • Initiate conversations: Knowing when contracts are up for renewal and getting in touch early can shape tender criteria in your favor. It’s about making sure your solutions are seen as the perfect fit from the get-go.

  • Sell your value: Before the tendering even starts, make sure procurement officials know why your offerings are what they need. Highlighting your value early sets the stage for a successful bid.

3. Crafting winning bids

  • Tailor your responses: Go beyond the basics. Show that you understand not just the requirements but the underlying needs. Your proposals should scream, "I get what you’re really looking for."

  • Stand out with quality and innovation: Quality and innovation aren’t just buzzwords; they’re your bid’s best friends. Showcase how your solutions bring extra value to the table.

Your strategy playbook

  1. Stay informed: Keep a close watch on procurement portals and announcements. Being in the know lets you spot opportunities and get your ducks in a row early.

  2. Boost your credibility: Registering with procurement databases and getting the right certifications can make all the difference. They signal that you’re a serious player.

  3. Build relationships: Networking isn’t just schmoozing. It’s about creating partnerships and gaining insights that can lead to real opportunities.

  4. Collaborate for bigger wins: Sometimes, joining forces with larger companies can open doors to contracts that might have been just out of reach.

  5. Emphasize what sets you apart: It’s all about showing the value and quality of what you offer. Remember, the public sector is on the lookout for solutions that tick the box for sustainability and innovation.

  6. Prepare meticulously: Each bid should be crafted to highlight why you’re the best choice, addressing all requirements and showcasing your unique selling points.

  7. Make technology work for you: E-procurement platforms and digital tools aren’t just convenient; they’re game changers. Get comfortable with them.

  8. Never stop learning: Take advantage of training programs and resources. They can sharpen your understanding of procurement rules and best practices.

  9. Keep an eye out: Regularly monitor for new tenders and set alerts for keywords in your sector. Being proactive is key.

  10. Persistence pays off: Keep pushing in the challenging world of procurement; don't lose heart. Each bid teaches you something new, and by gathering insights from winning bids, you can enhance your future proposals. Patience eventually leads to achievement.

Future insights: Evolving EU public procurement landscape

The EU public procurement sector is set for transformative changes, promising a more accessible and equitable market for SMEs. Here’s a snapshot of the upcoming landscape:

1. Legislative reforms

Expect policy shifts simplifying the bidding process and revamping competition rules, aimed at benefiting smaller suppliers and fostering a fairer environment in economically uncertain times.

2. Digital revolution

Advancements in AI and machine learning are revolutionizing e-procurement, enhancing efficiency and decision-making. This tech leap offers new avenues for supplier engagement.

3. Market dynamics

A move towards transparency is leveling the playing field for SMEs against larger corporations, with cross-border procurements expanding the competitive landscape.

4. Sustainable and social procurement

The EU is prioritizing eco-friendly and socially responsible criteria in public procurement. This approach favors sustainable products and services, requiring suppliers to adhere to high social standards.

Key future trends include:

  • We're introducing mandatory environmental standards, aligning with green procurement and the principles of the circular economy.

  • Encouraging innovation by leveraging e-procurement and analytics to streamline our processes.

  • Focusing on professionalizing buyers to enhance procurement skills, ensuring more effective use of public funds.

  • Strengthening transparency and integrity with stricter rules, ensuring fairness and trust in procurement processes.

  • Promoting cooperative procurement, pooling resources across EU states for greater efficiency and improved outcomes.

  • Prioritizing social impact by focusing on job creation, fair wages, and diversity, which benefits SMEs and social enterprises.


The European Court of Auditors' report highlights low competition in EU public procurement, creating a window of opportunity for suppliers and paving the way for a more dynamic and open bidding environment.

With reforms on the horizon aiming to ease access for newcomers, especially the smaller entities keen to prove their worth, the landscape is set to become more dynamic.

This shift invites a surge in competition. For suppliers, mere participation won't suffice; standing out through embracing tech innovations and aligning with public sector developments is key.

Facing the future of EU procurement effectively means proactively adapting to these upcoming legislative adjustments and gearing up for the ensuing competitive surge.


Want to explore the world of undiscovered tenders?