Tendering in the Heritage Exhibition Sector


Studio MB has worked on numerous prestigious projects for museums, visitor centres and brand experiences across the UK and abroad. In our experience, the heritage exhibition sector at home boasts some of the best fit out talent in the industry. These fit out teams understand the quality and attention to detail expected in the sector and have developed experience managing a range of specialist subcontractors, learning their processes and outputs to ensure effective integration into the overall works.

The sector has benefitted from Government and lottery backing which has provided a level of dependable funding compared perhaps to some other areas of construction. Over recent years there have been signs of change with a notable shift in the number of projects coming online perhaps impacted by a downturn in lottery sales and the re-branding and re-focusing period undertaken by National Lottery Heritage Fund as well as the continuing uncertainties of Brexit. Despite a slow-down in projects coming on stream, the funding certainty associated with heritage fit nlout projects at delivery stage remains attractive.

For those looking to move into the sector, there are a number of considerations to be aware of when tendering for projects.

Tenders are usually looking for a main contractor for the fit out, separate from the base build works and capable of supplying and managing specialist, subcontractor services. These can include: print production; audiovisual hardware integration; audiovisual film and software production; interactives fabrication; scenic fabrication and in the museums sector, museum case fabrication and mount-making. In practice, audiovisual film and software is often procured separately in close development with the client and lead design team.

Clients typically look for the fit out contractor to demonstrate experience in managing these services through written methodologies or approaches to the project. A lot of emphasis can be placed on the quality of some of these services therefore it is important to engage with potential subcontractors from the outset allowing enough time for their valuable input and experience which can help make up for a lack of directly relevant experience on the main contractor’s part.

Cost isn’t necessarily king so look at the weighting of the tender scoring criteria. Many experienced client teams understand the risks of placing too much emphasis on price therefore quality is often given significant weighting. Under these circumstances, the ability of a contractor to provide responses that effectively demonstrate understanding of the process and the challenges associated with project can make a significant contribution to success and failure. It may be worth seeking help from experienced freelancers or consultancies if you or your team are not confident at producing this type of tender response. If unsuccessful, seek feedback on your submission and bring it to bear on the next tender.

This all may seem daunting for some entering the sector but there is opportunity to make in-roads. Current political uncertainties have no doubt inflated price estimations, meaning price may attract greater emphasis as projects try to stay on budget, giving less experienced teams a window.

Content written by Duncan Melville, Design Director at Studio MB. This post is part of a series penned by leading figures from across construction, architecture, design and retail in recognition of our Centenary Year.