Information on submitting tender applications for research activity
Please ensure that you submit tender applications which involve research activity (see the Frascati definition of research), including to the European Commission, to your Research Services divisional team at least five working days before the submission date.
Research Services will need to review the contractual terms and conditions and approve the tender on behalf of the University before it is submitted.
A tender is a formal offer to carry out a stated piece of work for an agreed fixed price, usually in response to a formal invitation to bid (often called an 'Invitation to Tender' (ITT)). An ITT is essentially a procurement mechanism through which a ‘buyer’ invites ‘suppliers’ to submit a bid to provide specified ‘services’; where the ‘services’ comprise research activity, the tender must be passed to Research Services prior to submission.
Tenders differ to traditional applications for research funding in that if the funder accepts an initial tender proposal the applicant will be legally bound to deliver the work, as described in the submission and for the quoted price.
Although ITTs can be issued by all sorts of institutions/bodies all over the world, ITTs relating to research are often issued by UK government departments. These are advertised on the Contract finder section of the government website and through the DfID website.
For information and advice on tenders submitted to the European Commission see the Oxford Gateway to Europe. Please note that tenders to the European Commission which involve research activity (as opposed to applications to the European Commission under H2020) are supported by your Research Services divisional team (and not the European team).
Sometimes a call for an ‘expression of interest’ (EOI) or ‘outline’ is issued as a precursor to an ITT, but this is not a funding mechanism in itself; it is an instrument by which potential applicants can influence and shape work programmes while funders get a feel for the type and level of expertise on offer.
ITTs can be open and anyone can apply, although restrictions can apply where the ITT is issued to only certain preferred bidders (EOIs and outlines are sometimes used to narrow down the field and shortlist bidders).
The ITT will set out all the information that the tender needs to contain. It will often prescribe the format in which the tender has to be presented and the deadline for submission (which is usually absolute and late bids will not be accepted). The University may also need to complete qualification questionnaires and other forms in order to demonstrate that it has the capacity to undertake the work and that it meets certain eligibility criteria (Research Services can help with this).
In addition, the funder will usually issue standard contractual terms and conditions (T&Cs) with the ITT and will expect the University to indicate its agreement to those T&Cs at submission stage (even though the actual contract will only be signed if the tender is successful). It is important that the University raises any concerns about the T&Cs at submission stage.
Once submitted, tenders are usually non-negotiable. The applicant will be legally bound to deliver the work as described in the tender submission and for the quoted price. It is therefore important that completion of the work and deliverables as stated in the tender are feasible within the timeframe, and that the resources required to undertake the work have been carefully considered and reflected in the price quoted in the tender.
Please make your Research Services divisional team aware as soon as possible of any proposed tenders involving research activity, including whether the University is the lead or is a proposed sub-contractor on a tender which is being led by another institution.
Please pass tenders and all associated paperwork to your Research Services divisional team and prepare and submit an X5 application costing at least five working days before the tender submission date.
Research Services will:
- approve the submission of the tender on behalf of the University and sign any documents which need to be submitted with the tender and which require an authorised signature
- advise on the budget to ensure compliance with the funder's rules on price and to ensure that all of the University's costs are included (see What is the expected price?)
- review the contractual terms and conditions and, where necessary, prepare a covering letter for submission with the tender documents which outline areas of concern