Guidelines on Invitations to tender

We don’t automatically advertise invitations to tender, because in some circumstances it can take up a lot of time (on both sides) and can prove expensive.

If you’re new to buying research or you want to explore working with new suppliers, you could explore one of the options below.

  • Invite people to express interest in your project, and to send you their ideas and credentials.  This allows new suppliers to show you what they can offer without having to go through open competition.
  • Publish your research interests and invite suppliers to put themselves forward for particular pieces or work or suggest other areas for investigation.  You can then shortlist from this list.
  • Hold seminars or forums to share ideas and get to know suppliers.
  • Ask colleagues for suggestions of who to approach for a shortlist.  It should save time and money, and it gives the benefit of a personal recommendation.

Try to limit the amount of work a supplier has to do before they’re shortlisted – it saves them extra work and speeds up your shortlisting process.

There are some instances where it can be a useful to hold an open competition; for example, when you want potential suppliers to suggest different approaches to a general theme.

Make sure you’re very clear in your initial invitation or brief to potential suppliers. Explain exactly how the competition will work and be explicit about what you expect to receive.

Remember to respect the authorship and confidentiality of any ideas presented to you during an open competition.  You don’t want to get involved in intellectual property disputes.

There’s more information about why we don’t automatically advertise invitations to tender in our Good practice guides for commissioning research.