INSPIRE implementation – Tendering and Procurement Guide

INSPIRE implementation – Tendering and Procurement Guide

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This document explains how you can structure your Tender/Request for Proposals (RFP) so that you achieve an INSPIRE implementation that aligns well with your organization’s short-term and long-term objectives.

If you answer at least one of these three questions with a “Yes”, then the information in this guide will be helpful:

  • Do you plan to work on your INSPIRE implementation in the next 12-18 months?
  • Are you already testing and evaluating any software tools, platforms and solutions that relate to the INSPIRE implementation, data harmonization or spatial data infrastructure development?
  • Are you considering a tendering procedure as the main option/one of the options to purchase the required tools and solutions?

Building a Spatial Data Infrastructure such as INSPIRE is a substantial investment, whether you have the resources to do it internally or whether you plan to work with partners and suppliers. You have probably heard of challenges that others have run into while building up their components and are wondering how you can minimize risks, costs and optimize quality of your own implementation.

You will also want to make sure that you find the right partners for your project. These should be well-aligned with your own objectives and you should be able to trust them. Then, you have to define the purchasing procedure itself. Especially for public sector organizations, there are many cases where a public procurement procedure such as an RFP is the only way to make and justify a purchase.

To purchase and implement a solution that will be a long-term success, you need a comprehensive understanding of your organization´s needs, cross-functional support, and a process to help you achieve your goals.

This guide will help you three-fold:

  1. Achieve internal alignment on objectives and key results,
  2. Identify components of your successful Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and INSPIRE Implementation
  3. Find a long-term, result-oriented partner who understands your challenges and has a solution that is mapped to your needs and to the INSPIRE requirements.

Start with Why

To pick the right path to your implementation, you first need to understand why you will implement INSPIRE. At the bare minimum, you will want to comply with the EU directive as well as with how it has been transposed into national or regional law. By complying with this law, you enable your region, your country and the European Community to make better decisions. You also enable monitoring the implementation of other directives, such as Air Quality, Noise Pollution and the Water Framework Directive. This helps us all have a better standard of living and be healthier.

Implementing INSPIRE is also about embracing opportunity – for better collaboration with other implementers on a wide range of topics such as Governmental and Utility Service allocation, as well as to streamline your current processes for reporting and data provision, and for alignment with new laws which can build on INSPIRE.

The biggest opportunities lie with adoption of your data and services by users you don’t even know yet. When we work to make data more open, standardized and easy to use, it will be used – by citizens, enterprises and NGOs.

Build INSPIRE for Long-Term Success

Before you draft your tender, take a comprehensive look at your SDI and INSPIRE implementation goals and your capacity to achieve them. Do you have the tools and know how to generate metadata, publish services, develop your transformation and harmonization processes and ultimately make your data truly interoperable along with a mechanism to monitor the impact of your efforts? Take a long-term, holistic view of your needs.

INSPIRE implementation will create a harmonized spatial data infrastructure. As with other infrastructure, the investment into it will be significant, and many of the gains and benefits will only be realized in the long-term.

To build this infrastructure, each organization in the EU which deals with geo-spatial data has an obligation to provide harmonized data via standardized network services.

The data needs to be in a common format that ensures that it can be exchanged, viewed, processed and edited by many organisations and systems. The problem that exists currently is that most organizations and governments have different needs, and therefore have different requirements from their spatial data infrastructures.

What Do You Actually Need?

Now that you know why you want to implement INSPIRE and how you are going to benefit from it, it is time to find out what you already have and what you still need.

First, determine which INSPIRE obligations you honestly fulfill already – does your Metadata Catalogue Service (CSW) from 2012 still work, and is the metadata up to date?

The INSPIRE implementation components and timeline

This schema shows the INSPIRE Directive’s components: What data needs to be available when and in what form? First, look at your existing data sets that are not in an INSPIRE model yet:

  1. Have you already identified the data sets relevant for the 34 INSPIRE themes?
  2. Do you already have INSPIRE compliant metadata for your origin data sets covering Annexes I-III?
  3. Do you already have INSPIRE compliant network services for your origin data, covering Annexes I-III?

If those metadata, data and services are ready, validated and up to date, you can start planning the next phase – data interoperability:

  1. Are your data sets covering Annex I already interoperable, transformed and harmonized with the INSPIRE data model?
  2. What about your Annex II and III data, including the code lists?
  3. Do you already have interoperable network services?

To determine your current status and make a clear plan for your next steps, you can request the RFP Template tool via email from us. The RFP Template Tool will help you to determine your specific needs and craft your tender/RFP specification, so it matches your actual needs.

Do I need a custom solution or is there something ready-made for me?

Many INSPIRE and SDI implementers build custom/one-off solutions. These are sometimes based on commercial or Open Source building blocks. Such custom solutions seem appealing, since you get exactly what you ask for – ideally. However, with a ready-made solution you might get much more, and you will likely have much lower maintenance costs. Continued solution development cost is not burdened just on you, but rather shared by all users of the ready-made solution. Ready-made, well-known solutions tend to have good customer support and community forums to help customers with an issues or questions they might have.

If you tend towards either building a custom solution yourself or procuring one, make sure that you check whether critical requirements can only be met by going this route – otherwise it will be a very costly decision in the long term.

More details about the specific challenges in the INSPIRE implementation and important aspects of a successful SDI development can be found in the Your Guide to the INSPIRE Implementation document.

Procurement Processes

At some point, you will have to decide how you will make the actual procurement. Will you whip out your platinum company credit card and just buy a cloud solution(/products/haleconnect/)? Probably, it won’t be that easy.

Depending on the circumstances such as the expected contract volume and the type of services or products you need to procure, you might have different options:

  • Open procedure: This allows an unlimited number of interested parties to tender against defined parameters. This procedure is straightforward and transparent but can attract an unwieldy number of potential bidders. You will typically need to go through this procedure if you expect the total value of the contract to be comparatively high. In this procedure, you will work with your tender experts – or those in a central procurement office – over the course of several months to define a set of tender documents, which will then be published nationally and internationally. After that, you will receive multiple proposals, and from these you have to select one (or more) suppliers. Additional steps such as specific contracts, bidder presentations and more can be added. The total duration of such a procurement process is typically 12 to 18 months.
  • Restricted procedure: This is a two-stage procedure, in which a public expression of interest allows potential suppliers to register for the actual request for offers. The first stage allows the contracting authority to set the minimum criteria relating to technical, economic and financial capabilities that the suppliers have to satisfy. Following evaluation and shortlisting, a minimum of five suppliers (unless fewer qualify) are invited to tender in the second stage. This request will only be open to suppliers invited and qualified in the first phase. The duration of such a tendering procedure is typically 6 to 12 months.
  • Negotiated procedure: This is a single-stage process where the buyer directly invites several potential suppliers and asks them to submit an offer. You then choose from the submitted offers based on a set of criteria included with the tender. Such a process typically takes 3 to 6 months.
  • Competitive dialogue: This procedure is appropriate for complex contracts where contracting authorities are not objectively able to define the technical means capable of satisfying their needs or objectives, and/or are not objectively able to specify the legal and/or financial make-up of a project. A pre-qualification questionnaire should be completed to select the candidates to participate in the dialogue. The contracting authority enters into a dialogue with bidders to identify and define the means best suited to satisfying their needs. The dialogue may be conducted in successive stages with the remaining bidders being invited to tender. Some public-sector authorities have developed guidance on conducting this procedure, so it is vital that specific departmental guidance is adhered to where applicable.
  • A single tender action with justification You directly award the contract to a supplier of your choice but must justify the use of this accelerated procedure. This procedure typically takes 6 to 12 weeks, as the justification must be cross-checked by the legal or purchasing departments. There are around 10 justifications for using this procedure. They include commodity market purchases; cases where you already spent money with that supplier and this new contract is a small add-on to the original; where only one supplier can execute the contract due to Intellectual Property access; where issues of compatibility with existing goods mean competition is inappropriate; and where there is only one supplier in the market and urgency.
  • A single tender action: You directly award a prospective partner the contract, without specific justifications. This is typically only possible for small amounts. This procedure can take as little as a few days or weeks.

More information about tendering rules and procedures in the EU can be found here.

Within each of these procedures, there is a wide range of variants. One particularly important one is which criteria you use to evaluate all offers/proposals you will receive. This is your main control to ensure the implementation you will receive meets your objectives. Your options on these criteria are manifold:

  • Lowest Price: For any supplier that principally qualifies, you pick the one with the lowest price. This is the most common approach for commodity goods and services, but very risky when quality and timing are important.
  • Best Value: You pick the supplier that offers the best price-performance ratio, with the performance typically determined based on quantitative and qualitative criteria. This is the most common method used when the buyer is open to multiple approaches and solutions.
  • Best Performance: You pick the supplier that offers the best solution overall to the criteria listed in the tender. This is a relatively rare approach. When it is used, the criteria are typically designed in such a way that there is only one supplier who fully qualifies.

An Example Tender Process, End-to-End

Let’s assume you have selected an open or restricted procedure to procure your INSPIRE solution. What will this process typically look like? Let us take a closer look at the general steps below:

  1. Your department proposes the requirement to implement the INSPIRE Directive to the management
    1. Optionally, you perform a market study and invite suppliers to submit indicative proposals to understand the solution space and required budgets
  2. Your management decides whether to assign the required budget or not
  3. You define the tender documentation with specifications and requirements together with the office for tenders. In this step you define what tender type you will use and what the evaluation criteria are.
  4. The Tender is published!
  5. Solution providers submit proposals and clarification questions
  6. You evaluate the proposals
  7. Optionally, evaluate shortlisted proposals
  8. Optionally, negotiate technical & commercial aspects
  9. Final decision and contract award

Let us look at some of these steps in greater detail.

In Step 1, your department posts a requirement to your management. If the management in the next steps decides not to go forward, the whole process is stopped. It is therefore important to define the requirements and the business case for your organisation well. At this moment, you also need to be aware of risks, consequences and alternatives.

A critical phase is Step 3. You have to ensure that the solutions offered at the tender match your actual needs. If the tender documentation – often created by third parties – doesn’t properly specify these, your organization will invest a lot of time, money and other resources to purchase a solution that will not bring you forward. Some questions that can help here are:

  • What exactly am I going to purchase – services, products, or time?
  • Do I know a solution that matches our objectives and requirements?
  • Do I have a preferred partner who aligns well with our objectives?
  • Am I choosing the right tendering option, or can I go with a simpler and straight-forward process in my purchase?
  • Have I defined evaluation criteria for my purchase that can really differentiate proposals?

A Decision Tree

This decision tree supports you to determine the best purchase procedure:

A decision tree for picking the right procurement procedure


SDI development and INSPIRE implementation is very specific and has many variables. You can fine-tune these to get an optimal solution at good value. It’s important to remember that purchasing a solution through a tendering procedure often results in getting solutions that do not actually match your needs in terms of specific requirements.

To make it easier for you to evaluate your development and implementation needs, we’ve put together a free RFP Analysis Tool. To get access to the tool, send a quick request to

For a detailed analysis of your specific requirements, you can get in touch with our INSPIRE implementation experts and get a proposal that is tailored to your specific needs. Reach out to us at