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SupplyDevon helps the South West economy bounce back from Covid-19

Peter Evans
Authored by Peter Evans
Posted: Monday, April 26, 2021 - 12:22

SupplyDevon is a project that aims to help Devon’s economy bounce back and become more resilient as coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The county is home to seven of the 20 districts predicted to be worst affected economically by the pandemic. Even before the virus, devon was home to the district with the lowest average wages in the UK. The effects of the pandemic on the county are likely to be long-lasting.

The concept is simple: By buying from other Devon businesses, money spent by local organisations can be reinvested into the communities in which they operate.

The SupplyDevon initiative, funded by a £250,000 grant from the Government’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, stemmed from the Covid-19 Hub run by Barnstaple-based tech firm Applegate. It was was developed to help match up suppliers of PPE, and other vital equipment with those who needed it, and has arranged delivery of over a billion items since the pandemic started. SupplyDevon launched in early February 2021 and is already in use by both public and private sector procurement teams in Devon.

The regional procurement platform has been developed by Applegate in partnership with Ghyston, one of the South West's leading software development companies and The University of Exeter. Suppliers are matched to buyer requests through artificial intelligence.  

SupplyDevon balances the ethnic and gender mix of those invited to quote, so using the platform helps to promote fairness and equality within the supply chain, as well as ensuring local matches.

Dr Fabrizio Costa, a lecturer in Machine Learning at The University of Exeter, said: “By precisely defining the notions of fairness we have been able to accurately track the gender and ethnicity balance in the list of suppliers invited to quote. This has allowed us to develop an AI system that can match the performance of the Procurement Team in identifying the right supplier for each buyer, while at the same time ensuring that the proposed ensemble of all invited suppliers for a given request contains a fair mix of protected categories.

“In addition, the AI system can significantly improve the operational speed and volume of the requests for quotation processed by Applegate.”

Thanks to government funding, both buyers and suppliers in Devon can join SupplyDevon for free, and there is no commission on transactions. The platform provides opportunities for suppliers to be matched to requests for quotation, or tenders from other local businesses and organisations. These requests can be managed and responded to via an online platform - no downloads are required.

Stuart Brocklehurst, Chief Executive of Applegate, urged Devon-based suppliers to register : “This is a great opportunity for Devon firms to win more business and help tackle climate change at the same time. For procurement teams, it’s an opportunity to buy better, to support the local community, tackle climate change and counter discrimination.”

For buyers, it enables them to identify suppliers within the Devon area and compare aspects such as localism, quality and price. By helping organisations across Devon find local suppliers with no charge, carbon emissions from the transport of goods across the country and the wider world are reduced. For all users of SupplyDevon, this offers a way for businesses to play their part in helping the county reach its net-zero carbon emissions goal, and tackle climate change.

The goal is to increase the volume of connections made, build longer-lasting relationships, and increase sales between Devon buyers and Devon suppliers. 

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