One of the more fun sources of competitor intelligence in the UK is requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. This provides information about the dealings of government departments, rather than private industry, but that includes the dealings of government departments with private industry. The best way to access these is via the excellent WhatDoTheyKnow.
Some real examples might be the best what to show what is available using this wide-ranging tool:
- IT suppliers used by a local authority. Even more detail in here and this other request.
- Types of services acquired by a local authority.
- Companies that receive government funding. Here is another type of example.
- Requests can be made about specific companies too. For example, this request about government dealings with Google.
The Act is an important tool that should not be abused, especially as a lazy way to find competitor intelligence that may be available by other means, but there are legitimate reasons for making requests under this Act. Used judiciously, Freedom of Information requests can provide competitor intelligence that is unavailable elsewhere.