Interview | FVB | 05-01-2021

“Thinking big in procurement”

Interview with Christine Schumacher

Head of the Leibniz Competence Center for Procurement in the Leibniz Association


Christine Schumacher | Photo: Caroline Pitzke

Whether laboratory supplies, photocopiers or software programs – procurement plays an important role in facilitating good work, also in science. The Leibniz Headquarters and several Leibniz institutes have now come together to undertake joint procurements and save on costs. The result is the Leibniz Competence Center for Procurement (LKCB), which was launched at the Forschungsverbund Berlin (FVB) in October 2020.

The Interview was conducted by Anja Wirsing.

Ms. Schumacher, why was the Leibniz Competence Center for Procurement initiated?
There is greater cost pressure on the institutes. In addition, the requirements for public procurement have increased enormously in recent years, i.e., the type of tendering procedure has now become more demanding – greater transparency is required, everything needs to be comprehensible, and it takes place digitally. Many institutes do not have the necessary expertise for this. Joint purchasing can save a lot of money and build up competence in the institutes. Our aim is to pool joint procurements within the Leibniz Association and to advise and support the institutes with regard to complex procedures.

What role does FVB play?
You could say that FVB is the facilitator of the project. It hosts the Leibniz Competence Center for Procurement. My position, paid for by the Leibniz Association, is based here. It fits in well because FVB has an excellent procurement infrastructure and considerable expertise. After all, the Joint Administration has been carrying out procurement for eight Leibniz institutes since 1992.

What is the first task?
We have just issued a tender for a framework agreement for the “leasing of multifunction devices,” i.e., photocopier leasing. We are currently working on the tender for a framework agreement for Adobe licenses – 58 Leibniz institutes and the Helmholtz Association are involved in this undertaking. This demonstrates our openness to cooperate with other scientific institutions. Incidentally, IT is particularly suitable for joint purchasing because all Leibniz institutes use more or less identical software. Until now, they have all needed their own individual license agreements, but as a group they would only need one. An easy way to cut costs.

Do social and environmental standards play a role in joint procurement?
Yes, of course – the requirements in the public sector are very high. We must follow the highest standards available – where environmental standards are concerned, for example, this means the Blue Angel or the highest energy efficiency class.

Are there any shining examples in science for LKCB to follow?
Other major research organizations such as the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Max Planck Society are centrally organized – this is used to cut costs through centralized purchasing. Universities also have central procurement offices, but these focus mainly on very theoretical aspects of procurement and budgetary law. We are very pragmatic; we want to provide the institutes with quick, practical support, and we want to initiate joint tendering opportunities. And of course FVB also serves as a good example – the LKCB is a large-scale version of FVB’s Purchasing department. So the idea of joining forces has not become obsolete – the synergistic effects of combining procurement needs are plain to see. You need to think big in procurement.

Translation: Teresa Gehrs