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Before applying

Documents: Preparing your Call for Tender


Understanding the Contract Notice

Before submitting a tender, it's important to know the key details of the procurement process. In particular, you should familiarize yourself with the Contract Notice, which is the publication that informs potential suppliers of a new procurement opportunity (CfT).

All CfT above the Directive thresholds, organized by F4E, are published in the S series of the Official Journal of the European Union and on the Industry Portal or F4E website. They can be accessed via TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) or our industry porta. If your company is registered in F4E Database or TED for a particular activity domain, you will be automatically informed of such publications.

In the Contract Notice, you'll find essential details about the procurement, such as:

•    Estimated contract value
•    Type of contract (direct or framework)
•    Contract duration
•    Whether the contract is made up of lots, and a brief description of each lot
•    Whether there will be a public opening of bids
•    Selection criteria for taking part in the tender
•    Criteria for awarding the contract
•    location where you may find the better tender documentation and submission modalities

The Contract Notice is an important document, as it sets out the basic requirements and expectations for potential suppliers. It's essential to read the notice carefully to ensure that you meet all the requirements and understand the full scope of the procurement. The specific requirements for the CfT will be published in the rest of the documentation.

Note that you must comply with the deadline given in the Contract Notice for submitting your tender. Failure to do so will result in your application or tender being deemed inadmissible. In some cases, F4E may grant an extension of the deadline upon request or by its own initiative. If this happens, an addendum will be published.

Invitation to Tender

An Invitation to Tender (ITT) is the initial step in the procurement process, where economic operators or potential contractors are invited to submit tenders for supply or service contracts. The ITT document outlines all the requirements of the procedure, including deliverables, services, and timelines, as well as the evaluation process that will be followed. It also details the rules for participation, documents to be submitted, minimum requirements for selection, and the evaluation and negotiation processes. 

The specific requirements in relation to the offer and its contract implementation are described in the annexes.

A.    Annex 01: Draft Contract: It contains the model for the general scope of the contract, including specific and general conditions as adapted for the particular CfT, Annexes A and B, and any other amendments.

Depending on the type of contract there would be different general conditions:

Model contracts for operational procedures:

Model contracts for administrative procedures:

The model contract will contain the Intellectual Property conditions applicable to the implementation of the contract. There are three possible applicable regimes and you may find below the general conditions or IP provisions applicable to each one of them.

    1. Joint ownership
    2. Contractor’s ownership
    3. F4E ownership

For further information in relation to IP provisions and F4E’s approach in relation to Intellectual Property, please see the following link. You will find there also important information on how to fill in the IP documentation needed in a Cft (guidelines, FAQ, definitions, etc).

B.    Annex A – Management Specifications: In Annex A, you will find the minimum quality requirements that the contractor must satisfy to qualify for the tender procedure, particularly with regard to compliance with nuclear safety and quality assurance requirements, internal documentation processes, etc. The general requirements on the Quality Management System of the suppliers are defined in the QA-115 document (see more in further section Quality Assurance) from where F4E will extract the correspondent management specifications for each CfT

C.    Annex B – Technical Specifications: This annex contains information regarding the scope of work. It defines the required work or needs to be met or provided, and includes project milestones, deliverables, reports, deadlines, requirements, options and other relevant details. In most of the CfT, Annex 13 Technical Capacity Safety Criterion (Template) is required to be completed in order to comply with the requirements contained in the Annex B.

D.    Other annexes: Depending on the type of procurement procedure and its specific requirements, there may be other annexes that need to be completed. These may include the Financial Information Form, Legal Entity Form or Identification Form, among others. You can find all of the standard documents for tender preparation at this link, under the section “Standard Documents for Tender Preparation” (*please note that not all of these documents need to be completed for every single procurement procedure. The required annexes may vary depending on the specific tender requirements. It is important to consult the Invitation to Tender to see which annexes are needed in each particular case). 


Contract Types

Depending on the scope of the procurement needs, different types of contracts may be chosen by F4E when launching the procedure. F4E uses several contract types to support the procurement of assets, services or works, and each type of contract has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on factors such as the complexity of the requirement, the duration and frequency of the need, and the degree of flexibility required. It is important for tenderers to carefully review the type of contract that F4E intends to use and to understand its implications before submitting a tender.

Supply or Service Contract

F4E typically enters supply or service contracts with economic operators/external companies to meet its needs. The main difference between these two types of contracts lies in the nature of the obligation undertaken by the contractor. In a supply contract, the contractor agrees to deliver goods, while in a service contract, the contractor undertakes to perform a specific service.

Supply contracts can include the delivery of raw materials, manufacturing components, or equipment needed for the construction or operation of the ITER project; also the supply of goods such as IT equipment or furniture to guarantee the implementation of the tasks of the Joint Undertaking. Service contracts can cover various services, such as maintenance, repair, transportation, consulting, or training.

The choice between a supply or service contract depends on the specific needs of each procurement procedure. In cases where both supplies and services are required, such as in mixed contracts, the model contract type will be determined based on the scope of the contract that holds the highest value. This includes incorporating clauses that cover the dispositions of the other contract type.
F4E is also launching CfTs for the construction of buildings and other works within the site, which fall under work contracts. Considering the specific legislation and applicable national rules, the model contracts for this scope are tailored accordingly and are based on FIDIC models.

Direct Contract vs Framework Contract

When conducting a procurement process with F4E, it is important to understand the different types of contracts that may be used. In the previous section, we explained the different types of contracts based on the nature of the object of the contract: supply or service contracts and works, depending on what is being acquired through the procurement procedure. The characteristics and implementation mode of these needs also influence the selection of the appropriate contract type:

Direct contracts and framework contracts are two primary types of contracts that F4E may use in their procurement processes (public contracts are always documented in written form)

Direct contracts are definitive and self-sufficient contracts that can be used for all types of purchases, including services, supplies, and works. These contracts stipulate the subject matter, remuneration, and duration of performance at the outset, along with all necessary legal conditions. They can be implemented without further formalities.

On the other hand, framework contracts stipulate the subject matter of the purchase, the price list, the parties, the legal setup, the duration, and the method of making purchases. However, the other necessary elements of the contractual relationship are defined at a later stage in a specific contract or an order form, which indicates the ultimate aspects of the contract such as the quantities and date of delivery. Framework contracts do not give rise to a direct obligation for F4E, and only the specific contracts concluded under a framework contract constitute a direct binding commitment to purchase from F4E’s side.

In addition, F4E may use purchase orders for simple, low-value purchases that do not exceed €15k. Purchase orders typically include details such as the item or service to be purchased, the price, the delivery date, and the terms of payment. 

In summary, it is important to understand the different types of contracts that may be used in F4E's procurement processes, as well as the specific requirements for written contracts and purchase orders. These guidelines will help tenderers understand the implementation modalities of the contracts and the risks and flexibility associated with each case. 

Types of Framework Contracts

As indicated in the previous section, a framework contract is an agreement between F4E and an economic operator(s) that sets out the terms and conditions governing contracts to be awarded during a specific period. The details of the contractual relationship are later defined in a specific contract. They can take the following forms:

Single Framework Contracts

A single framework contract is established with one contractor to provide the required service or supply. The contract is valid for a fixed period, and the contractor is expected to supply the required service or supply whenever requested by F4E. The same contractor will cover all the scope of the contract.

Cascade Framework Contracts

F4E establishes a framework agreement with several economic operators, who are ranked based on the result of the evaluation of the CfT as announced in the award criteria. When F4E needs to procure a specific service or supply, it first contacts the highest-ranked economic operator on the list. If that economic operator is unable or unwilling to provide the required service or supply, the contracting authority moves on to the next economic operator on the list, and so on until conditions are met to sign the specific contract. Generally, two or three contractors in cascade are foreseen.

Unavailability of an economic operator is given under the scenarios of the correspondent framework: when the economic operator does not send a task offer, without justification or not within the deadline specified; when no agreement is reached between F4E and the economic operator; when a of conflict of interest arises or when there are consecutive failures to perform during the previous implementation.

This type of framework contract provides a backup in situations where the security of supply is endangered.

Framework Contracts with Re-opening of Competition

A framework contract with reopening of competition is a type of framework contract in which the contracting authority periodically reopens the competition for certain purchases or tasks covered by the framework. This means that after the framework contract signature, F4E will invite all successful tenderers that signed the multiple framework contract to submit tenders for the task orders, in view of the signature of the specific contract. The purpose of this is to ensure a certain degree of competition. This ensures that F4E gets the best value for money and encourages competition among contractors, increasing the business opportunities available for successful contractors.

Specific contracts are awarded based on the award criteria specified in the framework.

It is used for non-standard purchases, when the technical specifications of the framework contract are not precise or complete enough to cover its assignments or when the evolution of the market is such that it is economically beneficial to update the prices and reopen the competition. Also when the previous tasks are not interconnected to the new ones.

Mixed Framework Contract

Both cascade and re-opening of competition can happen within the same framework contract. 

A mixed framework contract is a type of FWC in which some of the terms are precisely defined, while others may not be clearly defined. This means that some aspects of the contract may be subject to reopening of competition, while others will follow the cascade system.

It is important to note that this possibility must be explicitly stipulated by F4E in the procurement documents. This includes specifying which purchases will be subject to reopening and which will be automatically ordered through the cascade system. This ensures transparency and fairness in the procurement process and allows all parties involved to be aware of the terms and conditions of the FWC.


Main concepts to be aware of in a Call for Tender

To increase the chances of success in a CfT, it is important to have a clear understanding of the main concepts explained in its documents. This will help in becoming familiar with the key notions and requirements and enable better preparation of your tenders. 

Exclusion Criteria

The exclusion criteria are a set of conditions outlined in a CfT that, if met, would disqualify an economic operator from participating in the process. The purpose of these criteria is to ensure a fair and transparent process, without any conflict of interest or distortion of competition. These criteria apply to all types of CfT, and their main objective is to protect the financial interests of the EU budget. 

The exclusion criteria help to prevent potential economic operators who may have engaged in fraudulent activities, or who have been found guilty of violating certain laws, from participating in the tendering process. By doing so, the exclusion criteria ensure that only qualified and reputable economic operators are eligible to participate in the process.

To check whether your company meets exclusion criteria please refer to article 136 of the Financial Regulation.  The Guidelines for Tenderers document has been prepared to assist you in identifying the exclusion criteria and the evidence accepted to prove that your company does not fall under any of them. In each procurement procedure, a Declaration on Honour on Exclusion and Selection criteria should be signed and submitted to confirm compliance with these criteria.

Selection Criteria

Selection criteria are a set of requirements that economic operators must meet to ensure they have the capacity to provide the necessary goods or services that are the subject of the correspondent CfT. These criteria are defined in a way that allows for an absolute judgement of whether the company meets the requirements or not, with no discretion involved. They are not negotiable and they cannot be changed throughout the procurement procedure. Compliance with these criteria is mandatory during the whole duration of the contract.

The selection criteria aim to demonstrate the minimum technical and financial capacity of the tenderer, which are necessary to implement the contract (CV requirements, certifications, technologies, project experience, etc) and they must be met before the submission deadline.

To meet these criteria, the economic operator can tender together with other companies (Joint Tender) or rely on third parties through a subcontracting relationship.

Award Criteria

The award criteria in a CfT allow F4E to assess and compare the tenders received based on predetermined and transparent criteria related to the subject matter of the contract. These criteria may be based solely on price or on a combination of price and quality. Unlike the selection criteria, the award criteria are not intended to evaluate the overall merit of the tenderer or the company, but rather to assess the value and relevance of the specific offer they have proposed for the ongoing CfT. 

The evaluation process for the award criteria includes two methods: the automatic award based solely on price and the best value for money method based on a combination of price and quality. 

The automatic award evaluates compliance with the requirement, specifically with Annex A, B, and draft contract requirements, without considering the merit of the offer. This evaluation method is a simple yes or no judgment.

The best value for money method involves a relative judgment by an F4E staff committee who will award points to the criteria announced in advance and rank the tenders received to select the most advantageous tender in the interest of F4E. This method considers both the price and quality of the offer.

The CfT specifies the required documentation to support the tender, which is necessary for the evaluation of each award criterion. The documentation cannot be provided after the deadline nor supplemented, except for clarifications if requested by F4E. Therefore, it is important for economic operators to carefully review the required documentation (the absence of a certain document might not allow to proceed to the evaluation of certain criteria, which will lead to a disqualification of the offer. 

Moreover, economic operators should pay attention to the weighting of the award criteria, as this will help you tailor your tender to better meet F4E's priorities and interests. It is important to note that the evaluation process is solely based on the submitted documentation and will not take into account any prior experience or contractual relation that F4E might have had with a particular tenderer.

Nuclear Safety

Safety is a key element for F4E when assessing procurement documentation.

ITER is a nuclear facility which will use nuclear materials such as tritium and produce high-energy neutrons. The objective of nuclear safety is to achieve proper operating conditions and to prevent or mitigate accident consequences, resulting in the protection of workers, the public and the environment from undue radiation hazards.      
Nuclear safety is the discipline to predict and control hazards against the public and the environment, in and around a nuclear facility, in order to predict, prevent and control any harmful effect. It comprises the set of all technical and organisational dispositions taken to achieve the objectives, and the corresponding demonstration and evidence.    

(Nuclear) Safety has to be taken into account throughout the whole project lifecycle from design, manufacturing, testing, assembly, commissioning, and operating to decommissioning phases.

F4E has set up a policy (Nuclear Safety Management Policy) that defines basic principles and rules related to nuclear safety, environmental protection and protection of public health; this policy applies to F4E's staff and contractors who design and manufacture systems, equipment, buildings or carry out activities that play a role in the protection of these interests. 

For certain calls for tenders, where nuclear safety is particularly a sensitive factor, tenderers will be required to comply with certain nuclear safety requirements. 

The purpose of this policy is then to define the specific (nuclear) safety requirements to be considered by tenderers and implemented by F4E Suppliers and their Subcontractors involved in tasks concerning Protection-Important Components or Protection-Important Activities. (PIC & PIA activities, where is especially critical to comply with the requirements and specifications involving such a safety sensitive activity).

As an overview, these requirements consist of:

  1. Propagation of F4Es (nuclear) safety policy to all of the company`s (and subcontractors if applicable) staff
  2. Understand and comply with the requirements & responsibilities, both for the company and any externals involved in the process. Evidence of all of this shall be provided.
  3. Develop a Nuclear Safety Management system to promote and ensure an environment of nuclear safety culture, attitudes and behaviours in the workplace.
  4. Be subject to systematic technical control.
  5. Develop a Manufacturing & Inspection Control plan, encompassing the main activities

Depending on the scope of the CfT tenderers should satisfy the requirements by themselves or may rely on a third party to comply with the whole of the Nuclear Safety policy.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance (QA) comprises all planned and systematic actions that are necessary to provide adequate confidence that a structure, system, or component will perform satisfactorily in service. It refers to the expansion throughout the organization of a culture of good practices, of their implementation within the processes of the management systems of nuclear facilities and describes how they are managed through interfaces with suppliers and subcontractors.

F4E will require certain QA requirements are met by companies in order to be considered with the required minimum capacity (selection criteria).

In addition, QA considerations (award criteria) are weighted and taken into account during the evaluation of the offers.

Almost every Cft will include at least one QA selection criteria and one QA award criteria, and the tenderer as a whole/or individually (depending on each contract) will have to comply with those. For most of the operational Cft, Annex A will include the QA requirements (technical requirements are included in Annex B)

In the following link, you can check the supplier quality requirements that will be taken into account and further developed in the CfT documentation and correspondent evaluation process, with the guidelines, handbook, forms to fill out and instructions on how to satisfactorily comply with the established quality requirements. Some of them are part of the Selection criteria (the absence of them automatically eliminates the possibility of the tender being considered) and others of the award criteria via the evaluation of the merit of the proposed PQMP (Project Quality Management Plan). Compliance of offers is always mandatory and thus compliance matrix documentation might be required in relation to quality assurance systems.

Intellectual Property

F4E requires the management of Intellectual Property (IP) in their contracts and grants. 
As a potential candidate, you may find useful the definition of background, that you will see repeated in several parts of the contract:  

The term "background" is defined as any information or IP that is necessary to carry out the contract or to use the goods or services supplied under the contract, which is held by the contractor or developed outside the scope of the contract and not funded by F4E.

This definition covers IP rights that the contractor holds, including patents and copyrights, as well as rights acquired through a license or other agreement. Additionally, Know-How can also be considered as background.

For more information related to the management of IP at F4E please see the following link.