The term “economic operator” under the public procurement rules can be interpreted as including a consortium comprised of non-profit making entities such as universities and state bodies, according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a recent ruling (C-305/08). The issue arose in relation to a tender in Italy for the acquisition of geophysical data and marine samples. CoNISMa, a group of 24 universities and three ministries, principally funded by the Ministry of Universities and Research, bid for the contract but was excluded. CoNISMa took a legal challenge before the national courts against the exclusion. The national court sought clarification from the ECJ on a number of issues. The ECJ confirmed that an economic operator does not require any particular form and cannot be precluded solely because it is comprised of public bodies, nor because it is primarily state funded, nor because it proposes to sub-contract certain aspects of the contract rather than perform them directly.