Small and medium-sized enterprises (henceforth called "SMEs") play a crucial role in reaching the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy1. Whereas they are considered as crucial engines for growth and job creation, their competitiveness is affected by a limited exploitation of international opportunities and innovation prospects in the Single Market and beyond.
In this context, the Programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (2014-2020) 2, hereinafter referred to as “COSME”, aims to promote growth and to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises in the European Union.
The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises3 (hereinafter referred to as "EASME" or the "Agency") is entrusted by the European Commission with the implementation, inter alia, of parts of the COSME programme.
In this respect, this call for proposals, managed by EASME, implements parts of the COSME Work Programme 2019, as last amended on 20 August 20194.
1.2. Policy Context
Public procurement represents 14% of the EU's GDP. In order to tackle the fiscal consolidation requirements, EU member states are increasingly recurring to the aggregation of demand via specialised bodies called Central Purchasing Bodies (henceforth called "CPBs"). These bodies operate at national, regional or sectorial level (e.g. in the health sector) and procure for the corresponding level of government.
CPBs are hence large scale buyers as they manage large calls (via framework agreements) used by all relevant public authorities to procure certain goods or services. However, aggregating demand may lead to larger volumes, and therefore CPBs may unintentionally reduce SMEs' access to public procurement markets. Against this backdrop it is regarded as essential that CPBs buying practices are more adapted to the particular needs of SMEs.
Furthermore, large procurement volumes of CPBs can impact SMEs in other policy areas on an EU, national and regional level (e.g. fostering the development of innovation).
A first training programme was funded by COSME work programme 20175. The programme was highly successful in terms of applications received, quality of the training course, the feedback of participants, and Member States appreciation.
2. OBJECTIVE(S) – THEME(S) – ACTIVITIES – OUTPUTS
The purpose of this call is to conclude a Framework Partnership Agreements (FPA) for the period 2020-2022 with organisations to which specific grant agreements might be awarded in order to implement training courses.
Applications to this call for proposals must provide an “Implementation Strategy” covering the period 2020- 2022. This document must define the broad strategic approach and explain how the specific objectives and operational requirements laid down in the present call will be addressed.
The document must be concise, precise and answer to the instructions in the best possible way.
The Implementation Strategy should be more a vision with the accent on impact. Applicants should specify in particular how they intend to implement the eligible actions as outlined below in point 2.3 during the period 2020 and 2022 (i.e. strategy and methodology).
After the signature of the FPA, the Agency may award specific grant agreements under the framework partnership for specific actions implementing the “Implementation Strategy”. Therefore, applicants having signed a FPA will be invited to submit a proposal with a detailed work programme. A first Specific Grant Agreement (SGA) might be awarded in 2020 to cover 18 months of implementation (2020-2022) and a second SGA might be awarded by the end of 2020 for a period of 14 months of implementation (2020-2022).
The objective of the specific actions is to strengthen the capacity of personnel working for large public buyers (i.e. CPBs) to ensure SMEs' access to large public procurement markets, as well as to strengthen the capacity of SMEs to bid for large calls for tenders.
The centralisation of public procurement functions may affect the broader market, at a local, regional and European level. Training the personnel of CPBs to understand and manage public procurement rules, to design call for tenders and recognise the strategic role of public procurement is therefore imperative.
A training programme that seeks to strengthen the capacity of CPB personnel will focus on how to aggregate markets for public procurement. This training programme will help personnel to manage markets, and in particular, to assist with the inclusion of SMEs in public procurement competitions.
Moreover, CPBs are usually invited to actively contribute to achieving other policy objectives, such as environmental friendly purchase, supporting the re-introduction of workers currently excluded from the labour market, fostering the development of innovative products and services. Therefore, the training must also address issues such as green procurement, social procurement and innovative procurement.
2.2. THEMES AND PRIORITIES
The priority of the specific actions training programme will be on newly or to be established CPBs in the EU and/or COSME participating countries6, e.g. CPBs in countries whose procurement systems are structurally weak and/or new or to be established such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
2.3. TYPE OF SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES
The scope of specific activities to be carried out by the successful applicants shall include:
2.3.1 Organisation and management of a training programme for staff working in CPBs, or in case these are not established, for staff with policy, regulatory or control functions in public procurement (in the EU Member States and/or COSME participating countries7).
The proposal has to describe the organisation and management of the training course. This includes the definition of the content and the duration of the training programme, the provision of the training material, and its overall management.
The targeted duration of the training programme should be between 5 weeks and 2 months, and can be split in two or more periods. Part of the training programme may be given online.
2.3.2 Selection of suitable trainers teaching CPB personnel
The trainers must come from academia and from one or more established CPBs operating at national level. Trainers must be fluent in English, as the training course will be provided in English. At least 55% of all training sessions must be provided by experienced staff working for CPBs.
2.3.3 Promotion and communication of the training programme
The proposal has to describe the promotion of the training programme towards personnel of CPBs. The target is to have at least 30-35 staff members participating in the training programme.
2.3.4 Selection of the participants in the training programme
Participants in the training programme must work in a CPB operational at national, regional, or sectorial level, or from newly established or to be established CPBs, or in case these are not established, for staff with policy, regulatory or control functions in public procurement. CPB may also be intended as a government department within a Ministry. Their application must be accompanied by a letter of support from their organisation. Overall, priority should be given to staff from countries with high numbers of newly or to be established CPBs such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. However, participation from staff from the other EU countries and COSME participating countries would still be possible.
2.3.5 Support for selected participants
The proposal must include a viable concept to support selected participants to attend the training sessions. This includes a dedicated budget line for the reimbursement of certain costs for the selected participants for the duration of the training. This may also comprise the reimbursement of some travel expenditures, accommodation and participants’ fees.
2.3.6 Support to Alumni network
The proposal has to include the setup of an Alumni network among participants of the training course (including those of the first and second edition). The names and the contacts details of the alumni of the first edition will be provided by DG GROW to the successful applicant after the signature of the specific grant agreement.
2.3.7 Organisation of a conference
The proposal has to include an overview on the organisation of a conference at the end of the course where the cohort will meet with best practitioners in public procurement in the Union. The costs for the organisation, monitoring and supervising of the conference have to be covered by the grant. .
For this call for Framework Partnership Agreements (FPAs) the consortium must specify in their Implementation Strategy how these specific activities will be put in practice in case they are awarded Specific Grant Agreements (SGAs).
All the activities mentioned in the point 2.3. have to comply with the applicable data protection rules.
2.4. OUTPUT OR DELIVERABLES
The applicant must come up with a set of outputs and deliverables, which will facilitate the evaluation of the proposal. The following outputs and deliverables will have to be produced and targets need to be set in the proposal:
Training sessions organised for CPB personnel, or in case these are not established, for staff with policy, regulatory or control functions in public procurement. CPB may also be intended as a government department within a Ministry. Participants from local and regional authorities would be eligible.
Personnel of CPBs in EU Member States and COSME participating countries who completed the training programme and increased their knowledge and understanding of procurement.
Establishment of a pool of highly skilled public procurement officials working in CPBs who have taken part in the programme.
Development of a comprehensive and well-structured curriculum for a training programme targeting personnel of CPBs.
A guide book describing the curriculum and how the training programme was organised, including all tools and sources used. The guide book must cover all learning modules, part of the developed curriculum.
Dissemination and promotion strategy for the proposed training programme and the methodology to be developed.
Setting up of an Alumni network including participants from both the first and the second edition of the training programme.
The applicants need to set performance indicators, which will allow the evaluation and monitoring of the proposed action. In addition to the applicant's indicators, the proposal must include the following performance indicators:
Total number of participants in the training courses
Total number of organisations sending staff to the training course
Number of countries included in the training course
Level of satisfaction and feedback from participants of the training course
The deadline for submitting applications is 27/02/2020 at 17:00 h Brussels time.
3.1 INDICATIVE TIMETABLE FOR THE SELECTION OF CONSORTIUM TO CONCLUDE THE FPA
3.2INDICATIVE TIMETABLE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FIRST SPECIFIC GRANT AGREEMENTS (SGAS)
Information to applicants*
Signature of FPA and entering into force *
Deadline to submit proposals for specific actions by invited FPA awardees
Information to applicants
Signature of the SGAs
Starting date of the action
Depending on budget availability, another invitation to submit proposals for a second Specific Grant Agreement (SGA) (i.e. invitations for Consortium having signed the FPA) will be launched in 2020. The second SGA should start in 2020 with a duration of 14 months. The COSME WP 2020 will define the exact duration of the second SGA.
4. INDICATIVE BUDGET AVAILABLE AND FUNDING OF PROJECTS
As a result of this Call for proposals, EASME expects to select 1 (one) consortium in order to sign 1 (one) Framework Partnership Agreement and (two) Specific Grant Agreements in 2020.
The maximum grant amount per Specific Grant Agreement resulting from the first consultation for SGAs will be EUR 400.000,00. The amount for the 2nd Specific Grant Agreement to be signed in 2020 is subject to the availability of the appropriations provided for in the COSME WP 2020 after the adoption of the EU budget for 2020 by the budgetary authority or provided for in the provisional twelfths.
The grant is limited to a maximum reimbursement rate of 90 % of eligible costs. EASME reserves the right not to distribute all the funds available.
5. ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
The following requirements must be complied with:
Applications must be submitted no later than the deadline for submitting applications referred to in section 3;
Applications must be submitted in writing, using the electronic system;
Applications must be drafted in one of the EU official languages.
Failure to comply with those requirements will lead to the rejection of the application.
Incomplete applications may be considered inadmissible. This refers to the requested administrative data, the proposal description and requested grant amount, and any supporting documents specified in this call for proposals.
6. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
6.1. Eligible applicants
The following types of organisation are eligible:
- International organisations with a specific mission in the field of public procurement;
Applicants must be legal entities. In order to assess the applicants' eligibility, EASME will request supporting documents from applicants at the submission stage.
Linked third parties, to the applicants are not eligible to receive funding under this Call for proposals. They may take part in the action as linked third parties at their own costs only10.
Only applications from legal entities established in the following countries are eligible:
EU Member States;
Countries participating in the COSME programme11 pursuant to Article 6 of the COSME Regulation12.
6.2. Eligible consortia
Applicants must form a consortium of at least two organisations. The consortium must include at least one
university or educational institution and an established Central Purchasing Body operating at national level.
Eligible consortium must be composed of organisations defined as eligible applicants (see section 6.1. above). Organisations do not have to come from different eligible countries.
6.3. For British applicants
Please be aware that eligibility criteria must be complied with for the entire duration of the grant. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, you will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project based on Articles 39.3 and Article 6 FPA.
7. EXCLUSION CRITERIA
The authorising officer shall exclude an applicant from participating in call for proposals procedures where:
(a) the applicant is bankrupt, subject to insolvency or winding-up procedures, its assets are being administered by a liquidator or by a court, it is in an arrangement with creditors, its business activities are suspended, or it is in any analogous situation arising from a similar procedure provided for under EU or national laws or regulations;
(b) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is in breach of its obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions in accordance with the applicable law;
(c) it has been established by a final judgment or a final administrative decision that the applicant is guilty of grave professional misconduct by having violated applicable laws or regulations or ethical standards of the profession to which the applicant belongs, or by having engaged in any wrongful intent or gross negligence, including, in particular, any of the following:
(i) fraudulently or negligently misrepresenting information required for the verification of the absence of grounds for exclusion or the fulfilment of eligibility or selection criteria or in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision;
(ii) entering into agreement with other applicants with the aim of distorting competition;
(iii) violating intellectual property rights;
(iv) attempting to influence the decision-making process of the [Commission] [Agency] during the award procedure;
(v) attempting to obtain confidential information that may confer upon it undue advantages in the award procedure;
(d) it has been established by a final judgment that the applicant is guilty of any of the following:
acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in the Union's programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements and Association Council Decisions, or similar arrangements;
countries falling within the scope of the European neighbourhood policies, when agreements and procedures so allow and in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in the Union's programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements, Protocols to Association Agreements and Association Council Decisions.
The updated list of eligible third countries is available on the following webpage: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/cosme/index_en.htm. Proposals from applicants in Article 6 countries may be selected provided that, on the date of award, agreements have been signed setting out the arrangements for the participation of those countries in the programme.
(i) fraud, within the meaning of Article 3 of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Article 1 of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 July 1995;
(ii) corruption, as defined in Article 4(2) of Directive (EU) 2017/1371 or Article 3 of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, drawn up by the Council Act of 26 May 1997, or conduct referred to in Article 2(1) of Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA, or corruption as defined in the applicable law;
(iii) conduct related to a criminal organisation, as referred to in Article 2 of Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA;
(iv) money laundering or terrorist financing within the meaning of Article 1(3), (4) and (5) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(v) terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, as defined in Articles 1 and 3 of Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA, respectively, or inciting, aiding, abetting or attempting to commit such offences, as referred to in Article 4 of that Decision;
(vi) child labour or other offences concerning trafficking in human beings as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council;
(e) the applicant has shown significant deficiencies in complying with main obligations in the performance of a contract, a grant agreement or a grant decision financed by the Union's budget, which has led to its early termination or to the application of liquidated damages or other contractual penalties, or which has been discovered following checks, audits or investigations by an authorising officer, OLAF or the Court of Auditors;
(f) it has been established by a final judgment or final administrative decision that the applicant has committed an irregularity within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 2988/95;
(g) It has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that the applicant has created an entity in a different jurisdiction with the intent to circumvent fiscal, social or any other legal obligations of mandatory application in the jurisdiction of its registered office, central administration or principal place of business;
(h) it has been established by a final judgement or final administrative decision that an entity has been created with the intent referred to in point (g);
(i) for the situations referred to in points (c) to (h) above, the applicant is subject to:
(i) facts established in the context of audits or investigations carried out by European Public Prosecutor's Office after its establishment, the Court of Auditors, the European Anti-Fraud Office or the internal auditor, or any other check, audit or control performed under the responsibility of an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body;
(ii) non-final judgments or non-final administrative decisions which may include disciplinary measures taken by the competent supervisory body responsible for the verification of the application of standards of professional ethics;
(iii) facts referred to in decisions of persons or entities being entrusted with EU budget implementation tasks;
(iv) information transmitted by Member States implementing Union funds;
(v) decisions of the Commission relating to the infringement of Union competition law or of a national competent authority relating to the infringement of Union or national competition law; or
(vi) decisions of exclusion by an authorising officer of an EU institution, of a European office or of an EU agency or body.
If an applicant declares one of the situations of exclusion listed above (see section 7.4), it should indicate the measures it has taken to remedy the exclusion situation, thus demonstrating its reliability. This may include e.g. technical, organisational and personnel measures to prevent further occurrence, compensation of damage or payment of fines. The relevant documentary evidence which illustrates the remedial measures taken must be provided in annex to the declaration. This does not apply for situations referred in point (d) of section 7.1 .
7.3. Rejection from the call for proposals
The authorising officer shall not award a grant to an applicant who:
is in an exclusion situation established in accordance with section 7.1; or
has misrepresented the information required as a condition for participating in the procedure or has failed to supply that information; or
was previously involved in the preparation of documents used in the award procedure where this entails a breach of the principle of equal treatment, including distortion of competition, that cannot be remedied otherwise.
The same exclusion criteria apply to linked third parties.
Administrative sanctions (exclusion) may be imposed on applicants or linked third parties where applicable, if any of the declarations or information provided as a condition for participating in this procedure prove to be false.
Applicants and linked parties if applicable must provide a declaration on their honour certifying that they are not in one of the situations referred to in Articles 136(1) and 141 of the EU Financial Regulation, by filling in the relevant form attached to the application form accompanying this call for proposals.
It is not necessary to submit a declaration of honour in the electronic submission tool (SEP) in the Participants Portal. All partners of projects recommended for funding will be required to submit such declarations at a later stage (during the preparation of the specific grant agreement).
However, at the time of submission the coordinator will be requested to confirm, in the electronic submission tool, that none of the partners is in a situation as described in section 7 of this call.
8. SELECTION CRITERIA
8.1 Financial capacity
Applicants must have stable and sufficient sources of funding to maintain their activity throughout the duration of the grant and to participate in its funding. The applicants' financial capacity will be assessed on the basis of the following supporting documents:
a) Low value grants (≤ EUR 60 000): - a declaration on their honour.
b) Grants ≥ EUR 60 000:
- a declaration on their honour and, EITHER
the profit and loss account, the balance sheet for the last financial year for which the accounts were closed;
the table provided for in the application form, filled in with the relevant statutory accounting figures, in order to calculate the ratios as detailed in the form.
c) Grants for an action ≥ EUR 750 000: not applicable.
In the event of an application grouping several applicants (consortium), the above thresholds apply to each applicants.
The above-listed documents will have to be provided at later stage, via the electronic submission tool and only upon request of EASME.
On the basis of the documents submitted, if the authorising officer considers that financial capacity is weak, s/he may:
- request further information;
- decide not to give pre-financing
- decide to give pre-financing paid in instalments;
- decide to give pre-financing covered by a bank guarantee (see section 12.4 below);
- where applicable, require the joint and several financial liability of all the co-beneficiaries13;
If the Authorising Officer considers that the financial capacity is insufficient, s/he will reject the application.
8.2 Operational capacity
Applicants must have the professional competencies necessary to complete the proposed strategy.
In this respect, applicants have to fill in the specific sections of the Technical annex 1 concerning:
List of participants, including previous experience in the activities of the call and short description of the technical equipment, tools or facilities and patents at the disposal of each in relation to the call.
The consortium must demonstrate that overall they can provide all the activities described in section 2.3 of this call.
Operational/Technical Capacity: Skills, expertise and role of key staff (max 3 per organisation) indicating the persons that will compose the core team responsible for the Implementation Strategy with their qualifications and competences, role in the project and time allocation to the project.
At least one member of the consortium must have experience of at least 5 years with regard to centralisation of public procurement.
Relevance of the Consortium’s architecture, expertise and experience Indicating how previous experience and expertise would be beneficial for the implementation of the call’s activities. It should inter alia include information on the applicants’ activities in the field of organisation and management of trainings and centralisation of public procurement.
9. AWARD CRITERIA
Eligible applications will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria:
Relevance (meeting objectives of the call; appropriate results; appropriate partnership)
How relevant is the proposal in relation to the objectives of the call?
How strategically chosen are the consortium partners (relevance of the partners to the project)?
Max. score 35
Quality of the proposed actions (clear and feasible description of actions; appropriate allocation of resources, including management)
How clear, coherent and ambitious is the proposed methodology in the Implementation Strategy in order to cover the call requirements regarding Objective(s) – Theme(s) –section 2.1 and 2.2 of the call.
How suitable are the provisions to ensure the quality of the project management and the control measures, including the mesuers to ensure continuity of the service and adherence to deadlines in case of absence of a team member and management of other risks. The quality system should be specific to the tasks.
How appropriate is the organisational structure and decision-making mechanisms with regard to the scale of the project?
Max. score 40
Impact on target audience (appropriate impact indicators; dissemination; project continuation)
Is the proposal suggesting clear, realistic and practical impact indicators? To what extent does the project contribute to creating a real, measurable impact (including the number of proposed participants in the training programme)?
How effective, innovative and convincing are the promotional and communication activities? Does the proposal contain a comprehensive communication strategy (including number of activities planned to promote the action)?
Max. score 25
In order to be considered for award of a Framework Partnership Agreement, proposal needs to pass an overall threshold of 70% in terms of the total score. In addition, thresholds of 50% will be applied to each individual award criterion described above, in order to ensure a consistent minimum quality for all award criteria. Proposals will be ranked according to their total score.
10. LEGAL COMMITMENTS
EASME will sign with the successful consortium an FPA covering the whole implementing period (2019- 2021). It will lay down the general rules applicable to the cooperation between EASME and the consortium (European Partnership - EP) and will include in an annex the Implementation Strategy. The FPA does not constitute an obligation for EASME to award specific grant agreements to the FPA awardee. The signature of the FPA entitles the consortium to submit a work programme for specific grant agreements of limited duration upon invitation by EASME.
EASME may award specific grant agreements for specific actions to be implemented under the FPA. Following the signature of the FPAs, the consortium will be invited to submit a detailed work programme covering the specific activities of the first year of FPA implementation.
This work programme is intended to translate in specific actions the above-mentioned Implementation Strategy of the FPA. Invitation to submit proposals for Specific Grant Agreement will be restricted to consortia having signed a FPA.
The approved work programme and budget will be annexed to a Specific Grant Agreement (SGA) that will be concluded with the consortium having submitted the best-ranked proposal, considering the availability of budget appropriations.
Depending on budget availability, EASME may invite the consortium having signed a FPA to submit detailed work programmes for other periods of implementation.
11. ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW PROCEDURES
Unsuccessful applicants may request the review of the admissibility and eligibility procedure and the evaluation procedure with regard to their proposal.
The rejection letter will indicate the means for submission of the request for review. Any unsuccessful applicant may request a review within 30 days from the date of the rejection letter/ communication to the applicants of the evaluation results by the EASME. In case of proposals submitted on behalf of a consortium of applicants, the request must be raised by the coordinator. A holding reply with acknowledgment of the request will be sent to the applicant within two weeks of the date of reception of the request for review.
Experienced Senior Advisor with a demonstrated history of working in International cooperation, nEU Grants, negotiation process, business planning, ...