Aarhus University surprised by ministry’s plan to subject public sector consultancy to competitive bidding

The research consultancy services performed by Aarhus University for government agencies and ministries are a good deal for society and give politicians a strong foundation of knowledge. The university finds it surprising that these services will now be subject to competitive bidding.

2017.06.28 | Thomas Grønborg Sørensen

Aarhus University's research consultancy services are a good deal for society and give politicians a strong foundation of knowledge. Photo: Lars Kruse.

This morning, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Esben Lunde Larsen announced that the universities’ public sector consultancy services will be subject to competitive bidding over the coming years.

Aarhus University expects the ministry to abide by the terms of the contract which is already in place. This will entail that the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark’s current framework contract with DCA (the Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture) and DCE (the Danish Centre for Environment and Energy) will apply up to and including 2020, at which point they are scheduled for renegotiation. Under the current contract, AU receives approx. DKK 400 million annually for public service consultancy.

Aarhus University’s rector Brian Bech Nielsen is surprised that the minister has decided to subject all public sector consultancy contracts with the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark to competitive bidding. In doing so, the minister is also paving the way for sending Danish research funding out of the country, which Bech Nielsen also finds surprising:

“We already share knowledge and research results with scientists and professionals from all over the world. That Danish food production and the Danish environment are world-class today is not least due to the enormous amounts of knowledge researchers from DCA and DCE have delivered to Danish food manufacturers, organisations and government agencies. Our public sector consultancy services have made it possible for Danish politicians to make important decisions on an informed basis, and at the same time, it’s been a good deal for society. For each kroner the ministry invests, our researchers attract an additional 1.5 kroner from other sources. This means that when politicians invest 400 million kroner, society gets over a billion kroner’s worth of knowledge and research out of it,” states Bech Nielsen.

 

AU ready to compete under fair terms

The major challenge will be to ensure identical conditions in the competition involving Danish and foreign universities and institutions.

Niels Christian Nielsen, Dean at Science and Technology, declares that he is prepared to compete as long as the conditions are the same for all:

“We have some of the strongest research environments in the world and extensive experience with delivering high-quality public sector consultancy. Quality which the ministry also acknowledges. We are prepared to bid on the projects for which we have the necessary research capacity and infrastructure. But of course, we will consider our bids on a case-by-case basis, when we know what the conditions for the individual tender are. The competition must be fair,” states Nielsen.

The dean points out that Aarhus University is accustomed to competing for funding internationally, and that there are strict requirements for the effectiveness of public sector consultancy:

“It’s clear that society must get full value for the funds invested in public sector consultancy. This is already the case today, even though there have been budget cutbacks of two per cent annually in this area for a number of years now. And so researchers at DCE and DCA are already very conscious of ensuring that they make the best possible use of the money.”

 

 

 

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