Procurement at F4E | BSBF2022 NEWS

Budget 2020-2024


Procurement Budget Forecast F4E (MEUR)














F4E Procurement volume for 2020-2024

Market survey / Industrial policy

ITER is the biggest international research partnership in the field of energy and can only be achieved in collaboration with industry, SMEs and research organisations. They are the backbone of this project. Getting the business sector on board and finding the best possible way to work together is high on the project agenda. F4E’s Industrial Policy pursues this ambition through three main objectives:

  1. Deliver the European contributions to ITER and the Broader Approach making best use of the industrial and research potential and capabilities of all F4E members.
  2. Broaden the European industrial base for fusion technology and ensure a strong and competitive European industrial participation in the future fusion market;
  3. Foster European innovation and competitiveness in key emerging technologies

F4E’s Industrial Policy applies through its day-to-day operations and procurement activities. To make good use of the full the industrial and research potential of F4E members and ensure the widest possible participation of the industry, F4E has engaged in pro-active market intelligence strategy. The purpose of F4E’s market analysis activities is twofold: engage market actors in our procurement activities and feed the internal decision-making process with a better insight of existing market conditions. The responsibility for carrying out these activities lies in F4E’s Market Analysis Group (MAG).

MAG obtains information about the market conditions mostly through market surveys, information days, contacts with companies and exchanges with the Industrial Liaison Officers (ILOs, see section 2.11 for further information). The information gathered through these activities helps making F4E’s procurement activities more efficient by translating its needs into procurement packages matching the capabilities of industrial partners.

Industrial database

F4E’s Partner’s Database offers the possibility for companies to register in F4E’s Industry Portal and get updated information about business opportunities in their field of expertise. Companies shall provide a valid VAT or registration number and a working e-mail address to receive relevant information. Registration in the Partner’s Database/Industry Portal only provides access to business opportunities and information; it is not a “pre-qualification” filter for engaging into calls for tender. 

F4E intends to upgrade its partner’s database during 2020. A general call for renewing the registration into our database will be launched during this year for companies to (re)register and select their field of expertise.

Procurement portal

F4E’s Industry Portal constitutes the one-stop-shop for anyone willing to engage into business relations with F4E. The Industry Portal offers information about business opportunities, procurement modalities and key reference documents; it also hosts the partner’s database and the e-procurement platform.

The information therein is not limited to the announcement of calls (which are as a rule also published in TED but includes also key reference documents such as the contract notice, specifications and technical annexes. Any new information related to a call for tender, e.g. corrigenda, changes in a deadline, etc. are also made public through the Industry Portal. Furthermore F4E uses the Industry Portal to announce Information Days, Market Surveys and for general information of interest to our procurement activities. The Industry Portal includes a dedicated area for the ILOs (Industrial Liaison Officers) allowing companies to identify the ILO corresponding to their country.

Since end-2018 the e-procurement tool embedded within our Industry Portal allows for the fully electronic submission of bids.

Procurement modalities

Procurement in Fusion for Energy follows the rules laid out by the European Commission in its General Financial Regulation with specific derogations, specified in F4E’s Financial Regulation. The legal basis ensures that the following principles are respected through all steps in a procurement procedure: transparency, equal treatment, widest competition, proportionality and sound financial management.

The following funding modalities are foreseen in F4E’s Financial Regulations:

  1. Expert contracts: F4E can sign contracts with individuals for the provision of technical expertise against a payment or a fix fee plus the reimbursement of travel costs.
  2. Grants: F4E can award co-funding grants in order to contribute to a R&D project carried out by an external organisation, if that activity contributes to F4E’s objectives. F4E pays direct financial contribution to cover portion of the costs incurred by the R&D actor. Grant agreements can be awarded directly or through Framework Partnership Agreements (covering long-term R&D activities spanning several years).
  3. Procurement: the most common way of pursuing F4E’s objectives is by launching competitive call for tenders to purchase products or services on commercial terms. Three different types of procurement contracts are awarded by F4E, depending on the type of purchase (service, supply or buildings) as well as the characteristics of the purchase (one-off, repetitive, long-term exploitation, development).
    1. Direct Contracts are firm and self-sufficient, in that the contract is implemented without further formalities (the subject matter, remuneration and duration of performance of the contract are defined at the outset, as well as all other terms and conditions).
    2. Framework Contracts stipulate the subject matter of the purchase, price lists, the legal setup, the duration etc, but other necessary elements of the contractual relationship are defined at a later stage, in one or more Specific Contract indicating e.g. the quantities or date of delivery. Framework contracts can be signed with one or more suppliers. F4E uses 3 types of framework contract: single-contractor, multiple-contractor with cascade and multiple-contractor with re-opening of competition.
    3. Innovation Partnerships can be used in very specific cases, when F4E’s objectives require a product, service or business model which does not yet exist on the market and needs to be developed specifically.

Based on the scope of the purchase (research, support services, manufacturing of prototypes, series production, etc.), the value, the complexity of the scope or whenever specific indications are identified through market analysis, F4E will use the most suitable tender procedure to select the most economically advantageous tender. F4E can use 5 different types of procurement procedure, which are described in more detail below: open procedure, restricted procedure, negotiated procedure, competitive procedure with negotiation, competitive dialogue procedure.

The strategy behind the choice of one procedure or another can be summarized as per this chart. 

The procedures most often used by F4E are the ‘Open procedure’ and ‘Competitive procedure with negotiations’. The latter is used when the complexity of the tasks or the risks attached to the subject matter of the contract are high

Procurement process

After a phase of pre-procurement activities aiming at further defining the boundaries and the conditions of the procurement procedure (market situation, available technologies, risks, dissemination of the business opportunities), this sequence of steps is applicable according to each type of procedure.

When required, depending of the type of procedure, a selection of companies is made based on technical and financial capacity. Only the companies complying with a minimum capability are invited to submit an offer.

The offers submitted shall in general address the way in which the company(s) will implement the tasks described by F4E in the Technical Specifications. The Tender Specifications include all the additional specific requests and conditions which must be covered by an offer to be considered for award. Depending on the strategy, contracts will be awarded either to the cheapest offer (in simple cases) or to the offer presenting the best value for money (a combination between the quality of the proposal and the price offered, where necessary complemented by negotiations).

Eligibility criteria

Participation to F4E’s calls for tenders is open as a rule to economic operators from F4E Member States (EU27 + CH). In special justified cases the participation can be opened worldwide (e.g. when insufficient competition is existing in the Member States). Subcontracting is not directly limited to F4E Member States, although specific requirements can introduce additional constraints in this respect.

The minimum capacity required from tenderers (in terms of technical expertise, facilities or financial stability) are defined for each call and are proportional to the scope and requirements of the contract. Procurement strategies are established to allow for maximum possible competition and to promote where possible participation of SMEs. In compliance with F4E’s Industrial Policy objectives, procurement strategies promote the development of critical fusion technologies within companies registered in F4E Member States.

Evaluation criteria

The purpose of evaluation of tenders in F4E is to assess technical and financial offers to choose the most economically advantageous one. When award occurs to the offer with the best ratio quality vs price (the award method which is most used by F4E) the weighting between the price and the quality elements depends on the scope of the contract. As a rule F4E also sets minimum levels of quality below which offers are excluded.

In most cases F4E gives significant importance to the merit of the quality plan and the reliability of the proposed schedule, the methodology proposed for the manufacturing, identification of risks and their mitigation actions, the internal organisation of the bidding team (consortium and/or subcontractors).

IPR policy

F4E’s Intellectual Property (IP) policy (more information in the following document) aims to make participation to fusion projects attractive to industry, beyond the pure commercial terms of the relevant contracts. The key tool of this approach is the principle of sharing knowledge and its potential benefits between the fusion research community and industry. F4E’s manages the ownership of IP rights within its contracts on a case by case basis, having regard to the nature of the contract and the potential interest for both F4E and the contractor of the generated IP.

Irrespective of who owns the results of a contract, F4E’s encourages the use of the resulting knowledge by its industrial partners through licensing. This is specifically the case for exploitation outside of the fusion field. F4E is promoting an active policy of use of IP results through its Technology Transfer programme (see section 5 for details).

F4E’s maintains guidelines for the management of IP within its contracts and in a dedicated section in the Industry Portal.

Role of ILOs

F4E’s relies on a network of Industrial Liaison Officers (ILOs) from different European countries working to raise awareness regarding its opportunities and ways to get involved in the fusion projects. ILOs are directly nominated by F4E Member States. The full list of appointed ILOs is available at the following link.

The ILOs mandate is the following:

  1. Raise awareness and transmit information to potential contractors about forthcoming calls to be published by F4E or ITER IO;
  2. Assist potential contractors in their understanding of F4E’s requirements within the frame of the above-mentioned calls;
  3. Advise potential contractors, upon request, on technical, contractual and financial aspects of F4E’s contracts;
  4. Foster the registration of potential contractors in the F4E databases;
  5. Act as a actors to exchange information on matters related to F4E industrial policy;
  6. Encourage the long-term participation of industry to fusion projects in view of commercial exploitation.

F4E holds ad-hoc meetings with the ILO network three or four times a year. Additionally information days and seminars are planned throughout the year, to report on the roadmap of the different procurement packages and facilitate partnerships between companies


Forecast 2021/2027




Main Vacuum Vessel


In Vessel (High Temperature) Components


Remote Handling


Cryogenics & Fusion Fuel Cycle


Radiofrequency Antennas & Plasma Engineering


Neutral Beam Injectors & Radiofrequency Power Supplies and Sources




Site & Buildings


Technical Support Activities


Test Blanket Modules


Broader Approach Projects







F4E procurement forecast for 2021-2027

Note: These figures are indicative and subject to the approval by the EU Budgetary Authority of the Commission proposals on the next MFF 2021-2027


F4E fosters the participation of SMEs in its procurement activities and actively promotes the creation of consortia with the presence of SMEs as part of its pre-procurement activities. F4E’s concern for SMEs is also reflected in its Industrial Policy implementation plan, which includes a number of measures aimed at facilitating their access to its procurement activities, e.g.:

  1. Share financial risks with contractors by reducing liabilities and guarantees where appropriate.
  2. Promote tender opportunities with value and risk suitable to direct SME participation.
  3. Reduce administrative burden for tenderers and contractors, e.g. through e-procurement and electronic management of contract modifications.

F4E’s industrial policy brochure can be found at the following link


F4E is strongly committed to implement a technology transfer strategy fostering the exploitation by industry of scientific, technological and systems engineering know-how produced in the development of fusion projects. Attainment of fusion power requires pushing the state of the art in several advanced technologies, which can then find applications far beyond the scope of fusion.

In November 2019 F4E signed a framework agreement with a consortium of brokers, with the objective to implement a pro-active Technology Transfer Program by promoting F4E’s technology portfolio to industry.

Further information about F4E’s technology transfer activities can be found at F4E’s Industry Portal.


For more info about Big Science organisations procurement, you can download the BSBF2021 Procurement Handbook here.

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