Competitive Bidding

As a public university, all procurement activities must be conducted in an open and fair environment that promotes competition among prospective Suppliers

When a department is not using a UCIBuy catalog or a pre-negotiated Agreement with a Supplier, competitive solicitations may be required. Competitive solicitations (RFX) can be characterized as either "informal" or "formal."

An informal solicitation may be conducted by UC employees, principal investigators, a Procurement Services Central Procurement Buyer, etc. often via phone call or by email to multiple suppliers. Suppliers should be provided the same request for requirements by UC so that each bidder is informed equally and so UC can evaluate the responsive quotes fairly.

A formal solicitation is conducted by a Central Procurement Buyer in coordination with the requesting department's Subject Matter Expert(s) (SMEs). The SME provides expertise in some aspect related to the RFX document drafting process and often writes the majority of Statement of Work (SOW). SMEs are often UC employees or an independent contractor can be hired to provide expert advice related to a complex project. The finalized RFX document is then posted to UC's public bid site,, for qualified Suppliers to respond to the solicitation. The Central Procurement Buyer administers the formal bidding process to ensure impartiality and to avoid any conflicts of interest.

As of March 1, 2021, all non-construction UC contracts and procurements between $10,000 to $250,000 that cannot be procured via an existing strategically-sourced agreement must be awarded to a SB/MB or DVBE, wherever practicable.

This informal solicitation process requires only one (1) quote for annual purchases below $100,000, and only two (2) quotes for annual procurements above $100,000, with some waivers and exemptions allowed (see details below).

California Public Contract Code Section 10508.5 allows the University to award purchase agreements valued up to $250,000 to a certified SB/MB/DVBE without being competitively bid, so long as the University obtains price quotations from two or more certified businesses. 

The process and requirements for using the Small Business First program are outlined in BUS-43 (PDF). 

Learn more about the Small Business First Program.

Dollar thresholds for when an informal or formal solicitation may be required
Funding Source $0 - $10,000 $10,000.01 - $99,999.99 ≥ $100,000.00
Federal No competition required if the price is reasonable (informal competition encouraged) Informal competitive proposals required from three or more sources* Formal RFX solicitation conducted by Central Procurement Buyer required**
Non-Federal No competition required if the price is reasonable (informal competition encouraged) Informal competitive proposal required from one small business.***  Formal RFX solicitation conducted by Central Procurement Buyer required**

*As required by 2 CFR § 200.320, departments must obtain three (3) competitive quotes, bids or proposals for a purchase transaction more than $10,000.00

** California Public Contract Code (PCC), sections 10507.7 et seq., requires the University of California to formally competitively bid the purchase of goods and/or services that exceed ≥$100,000 per annual year unless an exception applies and the basis for the award is documented in writing. Requirements for goods and services should be publicly advertised.

***The process and requirements for using the Small Business First Program are outlined in BUS-43 (interim policy) (pdf)

Three types of bidding solicitations (RFX)

An RFI may be used to "survey" the marketplace to understand what products or services are available and the approximate the dollars that may be needed for a purchase/contract. A contract may not be awarded from an RFI. An RFI is used to help develop an RFQ or RFP.

Suppliers are invited to submit quotes for standard goods or services where the award is primarily based on the lowest cost as long as the quotes, bids, or proposal is in substantial conformance with the specifications, delivery requirements, and conditions prescribed in the RFQ

Suppliers are invited to submit proposals demonstrating their technical expertise or specialization in services where the award is primarily based on the most advantageous balance of quality, service, performance, cost and other elements as defined by UC by using the Best Value Evaluation Method (PDF). The lowest responsive and responsible proposal received from Bidders meeting the quality criteria elements listed in the RFP will be awarded the contract. UC reserves the right to award a supplier with all or part of the RFP.

To take advantage of the above types of bidding events for transactions between $10,000 - $100,000 contact your Central Procurement/PS Buyer. Bidding can often provide the following benefits:

  • Improves customer service - Existing suppliers get complacent, the bid process motivates and attracts suppliers that want our business
  • Innovation is fostered - The market is ever changing, the bid process brings in the latest technology or knowledge
  • Cost savings - The bid evaluation process will identify the best quality solution for the best cost
  • Best-in-class supplier - Identifies strengths and weaknesses in the supply base
  • Shows UC is being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' funds

Exemptions to Competitive Bidding

The UC is committed to a policy of competitive procurement and contracting when competition is known to exist. However, there are certain cases where departments may be granted a bid exemption. For more information, see Uniform Guidance.

Requirements for purchasing shall not be artificially divided into separate transactions to avoid competition as defined in BFB-BUS-43 "Quotation Solicitation"

For more information, review BFB-BUS-43 "Exemptions from Requirement to Competitively Bid Goods and Services"

Contact for assistance with any competitive bidding questions