ESO - European Southern Observatory
| General Description
ESO (European Southern Observatory) is the pre-eminent intergovernmental organization in astronomy operating a number of the world's most powerful ground-based telescopes. The organisation employs around 680 staff members at its Garching, Munich headquarters and at sites in Chile. ESO is the world's most productive astronomical observatory.
Scientific activity covers all topics of modern astronomy and is mostly the work of guest astrophysicists from the ESO member states. Because of the excellence of Swiss astronomy institutes, Swiss astronomers provide a very valuable contribution to ESO, among them the development of instruments for the discovery of exoplanets.
ESO generates a large number of high-tech industry contracts. Some of the contracts relate to new optomechanical and optoelectronic systems for steering heavy equipment with extremely high accuracy. Others are for hardware and software for the operation of complex telescope instruments, mathematically advanced image analysis, and optimal retrieval, archiving and processing of extremely large amounts of data.
ESO owns four locations at high altitude in Northern Chile: La Silla, Paranal, Chajnantor and Cerro Armazones.
La Silla (2’400m) is the original ESO site in Chile. It hosts 6 telescopes, among them the Swiss telescope Leonhard Euler (1.2m mirror) with which the first exoplanet in the star 51 Pegasi was found in 1995.
Paranal (2’660m) hosts the Very Large Telescope VLT, an array of four identical telescopes with 8.2m mirrors. The telescope can see objects that are four billion times fainter than those seen with the naked eye. VLT will host the Espresso instrument, a new generation spectrograph, dedicated to two major scientific programmes: the search for rocky extra-solar planets in the habitable zone of their host stars, and the determination of the possible variability of physical constants. The instrument is built by the Espresso Consortium of Swiss (UNI GE), Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish institutes and will be delivered to ESO in exchange for Guaranteed Time of Observation (GTO). Espresso is expected to start operating in 2017.
Chajnantor (5’050m) on the high altitude Chilean plateau hosts ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array), the world’s largest radio astronomy telescope. Inaugurated in 2013, the array of 66 12m and 7m diameter antennas is capable of observing the coldest celestial bodies of the universe.
Cerro Armazones (3’060m) is the location for the European Extremely Large Telescope E-ELT. A new optical telescope (39m mirror) providing 15 times more light than VLT, E-ELT will address many of the unsolved questions in contemporary astronomy. The construction for E-ELT will last 10 years and first light is scheduled for 2025. The construction budget for E-ELT is 1’100 M€. 83% of this budget is allocated to industry contracts.
Founding year: 1962 Members (16): Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Brasil (candidate)
Budget ESO 2016 : ~170 M€
Swiss financial contribution : ~4.9 %
Swiss geo-return 2018: 0.6 (0.7 in 2017)
Swiss involved research institutes : Uni BE, GE, LS, ZH, ETHZ
Companies must be registered in the ESO global supplier data base. A quotation against a contract can only be made if the company is invited to do so by ESO. Contracts are awarded to the lowest priced technically and managerially compliant tender or, if specified, since 2019, according to a BVFM (Best Value for Money) evaluation procedure. For a multi-partner offer the ESO member state contribution must not be lower than 70% of the total contractual value
Tenders below 150k€: ESO can choose to send requests for quotation to a limited supplier group, which means that only companies from some designated countries will be offered to bid. SMEs can explore the possibility of getting these smaller contracts that do not come out to public tender. This is ensured by close dialogue with the ILOs and/or ESO responsible.
Tenders above 150K€: Tenders above 150k€ are published on the ESO procurement webpage. ESO uses a 3-step process.
Finance Committee must approve contracts exceeding 500 k€ and single-source procurements exceeding 250 k€.
ESO does not apply geo-return rules. Nevertheless a fair distribution of the contracts among ESO Member States is acknowledged. Yearly statistics on geographical return are available.