Public Contracts Regulations 2015 - Regulation 78

Regulation 78 - Scope of Section 8

Section 8 regulates how design contests are to be used within public procurement. Regulation 78 defines how the thresholds are calculated for two types of design contests. The first one is a design contest organised as part of a procedure leading to the award of a public service contract, with the second a procedure with payments or prizes for participants. In reality, there is no reason why both cannot happen in the same procedure as admitted in paragraph 2.

For design contests of the first type, the threshold calculation shall take into account the VAT of the public service contract, including prizes and payments. This approach appears clear and easy to understand. 

Design contests of the second type are more complex however. According to paragraph 3, if the contracting authority states in the design contest notice that it plans to award a services contract via a negotiated procedure, then the threshold calculation shall take into account the estimated costs of the final public service contract as well as the prizes and awards.

I usually do not give much importance to design contests as they tend to be uncommon and detached from the actual procurement procedure for the main contract (at least that's my perception). The other day I was reading a blogpost from a designer complaining that there were plenty of "free" design contests for logo and image design but then the expensive implementation contracts were always awarded without competition to big name studios.

Having said that, on the one hand, this Regulation refers explicitly to subsequent contracts and can perhaps force the disclosure by the contracting authority of its real intentions. On the other hand, design contests are becoming ever more popular for the development of innovative solutions like the ones run by CityMart on the behalf of many European cities. I stand by that for the designing of innovative solutions matched with a procurement of goods/services would be better served by an innovation partnership.

It is interesting to note that the Regulation appears to ignore other types of design contests, namely ones that could be conceived for the subsequent purchases of goods or works. That is certainly the case for the first design contest type which refers specifically to public service contracts. However, in what regards the second type of paragraph 1(b), it would seem at first glance that any contract type might be covered. However, paragraph 3 states explicitly that the threshold calculation is done in accordance with the estimated value of the future public services contract. What about the others then?