Procurement policy on fair access for SMEs - the C1-C4 Clauses

To guarantee fair access to its programmes for all categories of companies, ESA has designed and implemented a set of clauses, known as "the C1-C4 clauses", which are applied for certain types of procurement.

C1 & C3 Clauses: Actions Reserved for Non-Primes and SMEs

The aim of these two clauses is to foster competitiveness of equipment suppliers and SMEs (for C1 Clause), and of SMEs and Research Institutes (for C3 Clause), in areas where the concerned organisations have recognised expertise and capabilities.

Note that "Non-Primes" are here defined as all companies and organisations, with the exception of the "Large System Integrators" (LSIs), e.g. Alcatel-Alenia Space, EADS …

Procurements where the C1 and C3 clauses are used include those for technology research activities and for the development of equipment, components, or instruments - where SMEs and their partners have the necessary expertise, and where favouring these entities would result in a more efficient use of funds.

C2 & C4 Clauses : Open Competition with encouragement of subcontracting to Non-Primes and SMEs

These types of actions are open to all, but the main Contractors are requested (under C2 clause) to include an adequate participation (in terms of quantity & quality) of Non-Primes and SMEs - or under C4 clause, uniquely SMEs - in their teams.

Offers must provide an analysis of the proposed participations. If no SMEs are included in the offer, the bidder must provide evidence of efforts made, and the reasons for lack of success in including SMEs.

Procurements where the C2 and C4 clauses are used include those for innovative technology activities issued as open competitive tenders, where capabilities are available at Non-Primes and/or SMEs, and generally, which have a budget greater than or equal to €250 000 (some procurements of lesser value may also be subject to these clauses).

Results achieved

Thanks to the C1-C4 clauses, SMEs and Non-Primes have gained better access to ESA activities, especially in the following Programmes:

  • Technology Research Programme (TRP)
  • General Support & Technology Programme (GSTP)
  • Advanced Research in Telecommunications (ARTES)
  • Core Technology Programme (CTP)
  • Preparatory technology actions for ESA's Earth Observation Programme

Activities are carried out on a project-by-project basis and cover a significant number of ESA Programmes.

Definition of an SME

The SME Policy Office applies the definition of an SME as recommended by the European Commission, and which has been in force since January 2005.

Details of the definition are available from the Enterprise and Industry Policy website.

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