Tendering to CERN

CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, is based in Geneva. It is the largest particle physics laboratory in Europe, with an annual budget of 1118.3 million CHF in 2015.

It spends in the region of £350M annually on procurement. Whilst some of this budget is spent on the development of new technologies and new facilities, CERN’s requirements are not all high tech. For example, CERN is a large site and around 14,000 people work there and so it has civil engineering requirements to maintain and develop infrastructure. It also has vast amounts of data to manage and needs computing equipment and support to achieve this.

Key facts

The opportunities are in a range of fields including:

  • Electronics and electrical engineering
  • Civil engineering and buildings
  • Instrumentation (including accelerators, vacuum, cryogenics and detector technologies)
  • Mechanical Structures and Materials
  • Computing and information technologies

CERN provides advance information on calls expected to be released in the next three months that will exceed 200K CHF (approximately £120K). These calls are preceded by a market survey which is a pre-qualification stage. Companies who complete the pre-qualification stage and are selected at this point will be invited to tender. It is very difficult and sometimes not possible to add companies at a later stage if they have not completed a market survey.

Contracts between 50K CHF (approximately £30K) and 200K CHF are managed through a call for tender (known as a price enquiry) without the pre-qualification stage. These are not publicly advertised but they are sent to the UK Industry Liaison Officer (Allanah Bayliss) to recommend companies. Notifications of price enquiries are circulated via the STFC tender list. Please register here if you wish to receive these tender notifications.

For values below this, CERN finds companies from its procurement database and contacts. These stages are explained in the image: CERN thresholds.

HiLumi HL-LHC Project

The High Luminosity LHC Project (HL-LHC) is the next upgrade for the Large Hadron Collider. CERN want to upgrade the LHC in 2020s to increase its luminosity (rate of collisions) by a factor of five beyond the original design value and the integrated luminosity (total collisions created) by a factor ten.

There are loads of opportunities for industry to engage with the HL-LHC project. For more information on the HL-LHC and work packages please visit the HL-LHC Industry website.



To learn about tenders below this 50K CHF threshold, it is vital that UK companies establish and maintain contacts with technical staff at CERN in order to be informed of such requirements and inform the Industry Liaison Officer, Julie Bellingham, of their areas of interest. We can help you make those links so please get in touch with us.

Companies who wish to be included on CERN's supplier database should complete the form on CERNs website.

When visiting CERN, the Commercial Section of the British Consulate in Geneva can provide general advice, contacts within CERN and even practical assistance (if companies are unfamiliar with the area). Please contact:

Eleanor Baha
Trade Attaché
British Consulate-General
Tel: +41 22 918 2421
Fax: +41 22 918 2322

For more information, contact the UK industry liaison to CERN:

Allanah Bayliss
Tel: +44 (0)1793 442056

Tips for bidding

  1. If you’re not sure, ask (us or CERN)
    1. Don’t make an assumption on what CERN are asking for
    2. You are encouraged to speak to the technical contacts directly
  2. Only bid for what CERN have asked for, any extras should be optional or possibly submitted as an alternate bid
  3. Award of contracts:
    1. Supply contracts: usually awarded on a lowest compliant bid basis
    2. Service contracts: usually awarded on a best value for money basis
  4. Country of origin:
    1. Supplies = the country(ies) of manufacture or last major transformation (including sub-assemblies and components)
    2. Services = the country(ies) in which the contractor is established
  5. Pick your preferred currency; £, €, CHF (others also possible – ask CERN)
  6. Be prepared to make a very competitive bid
    1. There is kudos associated with being a CERN supplier but this is an ongoing effect rather than just an immediate financial benefit
    2. There’s no guarantee of follow-on orders but you will normally be invited next time if no problems occurred, and contract extensions are not unknown
    3. It can sometimes take several bids before the correct winning margins are found; the ILO team can help inform of the margin compared to the winning bid
    4. You will receive payment within one month of receipt of the invoice, if delivered and accepted
    5. English is a working language at CERN: all tender documents are available in English
  7. Bank guarantees may be a pain but are necessary; CERN seldom makes use of them unless the firm goes bankrupt
  8. Make sure you complete all sections and double check the number of references required
    1. For Market Surveys, if you can’t quite meet all the criteria it may still be worth submitting a response but justify any sections where you aren’t able to meet the exact specifications. Please contact us if you’re unsure.
    2. STFC are available to review and comment on the qualification questionnaire before you submit them to CERN.
  9. Ensure you submit the information in the correct way as stipulated in the documentation
  10. Consortia are usually allowed (companies involved should complete a technical questionnaire together)
  11. CERN’s standard T&Cs are available on their website
  12. Respect the deadlines for Price Enquiries (DOs) and Calls for Tender (ITs); you can respond to a Market Survey (MS) as long as it’s still available on the CERN website
  13. Regularly check the contact details (including email addresses) for your company in CERN’s database (and STFC’s)
  14. A decline is better than no response if you don’t wish to bid; this will help to ensure you stay on the list for future tenders

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000