Surfing the wave

SURFmarket has been offering procurement services to universities in the Netherlands for more than 20 years.

Text: published on 15.05.2014

Legal licences for software on favourable terms and conditions, for the whole higher education and research sector – that's what's needed. It was with this in mind that the Dutch non-profit organisation SURFmarket was set up as an IT marketplace in 1991, by the Dutch higher education sector itself. The main activity for SURFmarket was to negotiate with IT vendors on behalf of the community. Large-scale purchasing makes SURFmarket an interesting partner for IT vendors. It is advantageous for providers of software, cloud solutions, hardware and digital content to do business with SURFmarket, as it gives them a single point of contact and a single marketplace for the whole Dutch higher education market.

99 per cent coverage

Some 350 higher education institutions are now connected to SURFmarket. That is almost 99 per cent of the total number of such institutions in the Netherlands. The bulk of the client base consists of universities and universities of applied sciences, university medical centres and non-commercial research organisations. Each of these institutions has several contact persons, who are in direct communication with SURFmarket. SURFmarket mainly works on a demand-driven basis, which means that feedback from stakeholders within the community is essential in selecting vendors to negotiate with. SURFmarket has set up a framework to collaborate with this group of contracts and keep them up to date regarding the progress in coming to an agreement.

Several licence models

SURFmarket's clients can choose from a wide range of software, cloud solutions and digital content, such as scientific journals. The total number of agreements with vendors is actually about 160. The digital marketplace is where the community can view all the possible solutions and services that can be provided through our agreements.

SURFmarket has developed and implemented several licence models over the years. These have been adopted for worldwide use by many IT vendors. SURFmarket distinguishes four different licence models:

  • Consortium Licence: the licence model that comprises the rights of use for a (restricted) group of institutions. The specific feature of the Consortium Licence is that the conditions for use apply to the restricted group of institutions as a whole and can specifically not be stipulated separately from one another;
  • Campus Licence: intended for the whole population of an institution;
  • Group Licence: intended for a specific group within the institution;
  • Individual Licence: intended for an individual end user or device. In the case of an Individual Licence, a distinction is made according to the type of use, namely institutional or private.

For individual end users, such as students or members of university staff, there is a special web shop, provided by SURFmarket. The web shop has a slightly different array of products than the IT marketplace. The focus is mainly on the needs of individual users who are studying or looking for programs to support them with their scientific research. Luckily, hardware is also available through, due to smart deals with suppliers such as Apple, Asus, Sony and more recently Microsoft with its tablet computer Surface RT. Students and staff log in with their university ID (single sign-on), get a great discount and pay via standard payment methods.

Besides vendor management, SURFmarket also takes care of activities relating to the distribution of the media and licences within the higher education and research sector. This covers negotiations, drawing up contracts, arranging delivery, and helping to make the necessary financial arrangements. Also, for international publishers and providers of digital content SURFmarket proves to be the best road to reach researchers and readers, since the organisation acts on behalf of the consortia of the Dutch university libraries and the National Library of the Netherlands.

Coming soon: tailor-made tendering for cloud

Most of the SURFmarket-related institutions are bound by the rules of European tendering. Since 2010, therefore, SURFmarket has been working with a digital procurement system to make sure the agreements with IT vendors are being procured in accordance with the rules of the European tendering. The system fully digitises the procurement process. SURFmarket is currently exploring new ways to tailor make the tendering, e.g. for cloud solutions. It aims to make licensing rights readily available. SURFmarket will also actively manage the underlying contracts and ensure the availability of a reliable infrastructure that operates seamlessly. As such, SURFmarket is now transforming to become the cloud service broker for the higher education in the Netherlands.

The Procure WG is meeting in Bern on 20 May. Jan Bakker, CEO of SURFmarket, has been invited to attend and present his organisation to the group.
This article appeared in the SWITCH Journal October 2013.

Geert Eenink

Since 2007 Geert Eenink works at the Dutch non-profit organisation SURFmarket, today as a Team manager Software & Cloud. He studied Information Systems and Management. Before SURFmarket he worked at educational institutions in management and project organisations.

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