A sole source purchase means that only one supplier (source), to the best of the requester's knowledge and belief, based upon thorough research, (i.e. conducting a market survey), is capable of providing the required product or service. Similar types of goods and services may exist, but only one supplier, for reasons of expertise, and/or standardization, quality, compatibility with existing equipment, specifications, or availability, is the only source that is acceptable to meet a specific need.


  • A sole source purchase is a method of acquisition. It is not to be used to avoid competition.
  • A sole source justification is required for every purchase over the Direct Buy Limit ($10,000) unless the purchase is being made from an existing contract, the supplier is specifically named in the grant award, or the purchase is being competitively solicited.
  • Sole source justifications must be approved by Procurement Services prior to an order being placed.
  • Price cannot be used as a factor in determining if a sole source exists because it indicates the existence of a competitive marketplace.

Sole Source Justification Criteria

A Sole Source justification should describe the steps taken to determine that the chosen supplier is the only source available for your product/service. The following list of criteria may be used in determining if a single or sole source situation exists:

  1. Only one manufacturer makes the item meeting required specifications; that manufacturer only sells direct/exclusively through one regional/national representative;
  2. Item required must be identical to equipment already in use by the end user, to insure compatibility of equipment, and that item is only available from one source; provide a previous po number or equipment inventory tag number in your sole source justification.
  3. Named in award: Supplier is specifically named by the funding source award documents, inter-agency agreement or clinical trials agreement. Please note that  grant proposal documents are not considered an "award document".
  4. Maintenance or repair by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) are required for a piece of equipment, and the manufacturer does not have multiple agents to perform these services.
  5. Replacement or spare parts are required from the OEM, and the OEM does not have distributors for those parts.
  6. Patented items or copyrighted materials, which are only available from the patent or copyright holder.
  7. A medical/surgical decision by a medical/dental professional, where a specific brand is required for patient care, and the manufacturer has no distributors for the product.
  8. Consultants only: The chosen Consultant has unique expertise, background in recognized field of endeavor, the result of which may depend primarily on the individual's invention, imagination, or talent.  Consultant has advanced or specialized knowledge, or expertise gained over an extensive period of time in a specialized field of experience.
  9. A Market Survey has been conducted to determine whether other suppliers capable of satisfying the requirements exist.   A list of the suppliers contacted, along with the reason why each supplier could not meet the requirements may justify a sole source purchase.  The extent of the market survey depends on what constitutes a reasonable effort under the circumstances to ensure that competition is not feasible. If only one source is identified as a result of the market research, this fact may be used to help justify a noncompetitive acquisition.

Note: An item being a “sole brand” or a “sole manufacturer” does not automatically qualify to be a “sole source”. Many manufacturers sell their products through distributors. Therefore, even if a purchase is identified as a valid “sole brand” or “sole manufacturer”, the requester should verify whether the manufacturer has multiple distributors. If the manufacturer does have multiple distributors, competition should be sought among the distributors.

State-Funded Sole Source Purchases

Sole source purchases over the direct buy limit made with state-appropriated funds require advance approval by the State of Washington Department of Enterprise Services (DES). This approval process is in addition to the UW's approval process.

DES requires a minimum of 10 days to review and approve a sole source purchase. Procurement Services buying staff cannot expedite the DES review process. Be prepared to allow two additional weeks for the procurement process if state funds are used. State funded sole sources must also be publicly advertised on the UW website for 10 days, and on the State's WEBS website for five days, before the purchase may be made.

Campus customers can determine if a purchase is being made with state-appropriated funds by looking at the budget in MyFD (My Financial Desktop). If the budget field entitled “State Fund” says “No Value”, that means the budget is NOT state-appropriated funds.  If there is any value (such as 001) in that field, then the budget is state-appropriated funds. (There is also an identifier on the requisition that alerts the Buyer when a purchase requisition has state-appropriated funding.)

The following are examples of exemptions from the State's sole source rules. They are NOT exemptions from UW sole source rules:

  • OEM maintenance service contracts purchased from the OEM (original equipment manufacturer)
  • Professional development conferences, seminars, professional licenses
  • If more than 50% of the funding for a purchase is from non-state appropriated funds

Intent to Sole Source State-Funded Purchase: 

State funded sole sources must also be publicly advertised on the UW website for 10 days, and on the State's WEBS website for five days, before the purchase may be made.

CURRENT POSTINGS:  October 19, 2021

The University of Washington intends to contract with Watermark Insights to purchase software for course evaluations and surveys.

The sole source is based on the following:

Watermark represents over 20 years of experience helping colleges and universities collect data and learn from it. Watermark represents over 1700 different institutions across all of their products. In 2020, Watermark was given the Excellence in Customer Service Award from the Business Intelligence Group. UW School of Medicine has been using Course Evaluation & Surveys (formerly EvaluationKIT) since 2015, so the company has a high degree of familiarity with our needs and processes.

The projected value of this work is $40,102.00 (excluding taxes).

The contract will be issued ten (10) calendar days from October 19, 2021.

Inquiries should be sent to to: Lynn Magill, Senior Contracts Specialist, no later than 11:59pm PST on October 29, 2021 along with a capability statement if a vendor/supplier believes that they can provide the goods and services under this sole source contract.