ESO, or the European Southern Observatory, is a leading international scientific and technological organisation dealing with astronomy. The central purpose of its operations is to support and organise cooperation on researching issues related to astronomy and astrophysics. It also constructs and manages astronomical ground observation equipment.
Although the headquarters of ESO is located in Gar Hing, Germany, the institution’s observatories are in Chile. Advanced research infrastructure as part of ESO allows scientists from all over the world, also in international teams, to conduct studies resulting in revolutionary discoveries. The results of every observation project (several thousand of such projects are carried out every year) executed with the use of ESO telescope become publicly available one year after the end of the project. This strategy results in the increased transfer of knowledge and technology between science and business.
The organisation, established in 1962, currently associates 15 European countries, including Poland, which pay annual contributions to its budget, currently reaching EUR 163 million. The budget is spent mostly on permanent development of research infrastructure and, presently, on the construction of an ELT (Extremely Large Telescope). It is the largest device of this type in the world, which (as ESO claims) will be the “world’s biggest window overlooking the sky”. First observations with the use of ELT will be possible in 2024. All investments carried out by the organisation are executed in cooperation with European companies linked to the industry and new technologies.
As the majority of Big Science organisations, ESO has its own tender procedures, which guarantee integrity, efficiency, cost effectiveness and transparency of proceedings. During the selection of suppliers, the organisation follows the rule of achieving best possible results with maintaining costs within a specific scope. Only companies operating in the territory of ESO member countries may take part in the process of selecting suppliers and contractors. Solely in exceptional cases are entities from outside this group permitted to participate in the process.
The proceedings as part of tenders the value of which exceeds EUR 150 thousand are published on the website of ESO. In the case of tenders of lower value, the organisation, willing to choose a supplier or a contractor, contacts companies registered in the ESO suppliers database at its own discretion. Every company that wants to be taken into consideration in the process may register in the database, provided that it operates in one of ESO’s member countries.
ESO has its official representatives in member countries – Industry Liaison Officers, whose task is to provide support to companies that want to start cooperation with the organisation. Their list is available under this link.
ESO is also open to cooperation with science institutes (R&D institutes, universities, observatories etc.) operating in its member countries or, in exceptional cases, outside of them. As part of cooperation, a national institute may be granted observation time to be used on the organisation’s instruments – the time depends on the decision of ESO’s Council, which evaluates project applications submitted by local entities. For more information, please contact the Observatory by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org.