FIA Export Council Update

10 May 2019 by David Smith, FIA, FIRESA Secretary

What is often said about the sciences is that if it smells it’s chemistry, if it moves it’s biology and if it doesn’t work it’s physics. The trouble with physics is that it was much easier when we just had atoms but then JJ Thompson discovered the electron at the end of the 19th century and much further work led to the atomic structure most of us are familiar with, a nucleus of protons and neutrons and with electrons flying about around it… actually a long way from the nucleus which if blown up to the size of a football would have the electrons circling it a couple of miles away.

This is still OK but in the 1920s, quantum physics reared its gorgon-like head and with it the concept that everything is really made of waves. A consequence of this is that mathematically, waveforms are such that you can’t define simultaneously the exact position and momentum of an electron so the more you know one of these properties, the less you know the other. This is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Heisenberg was once pulled over for speeding and the policeman asked him ‘do you know how fast you were going?’ Heisenberg replied according to his principle, ‘no but I know exactly where I am’. The copper said ‘well I can tell you that you were doing 95 miles an hour’ to which Heisenberg responded ‘that’s torn it, now I’m completely lost!’

Quantum physics tends to produce observed results that are hard to fathom but one such attempt is the so-called ‘Many Worlds Interpretation’ which postulates that quantum states become entangled, creating an ever-growing number of outcomes and an unimaginably large number of parallel universes in which these outcomes can take place. One can only take solace in the fact that whatever world you’re in, you will pay taxes [thank you Benjamin Franklin] and the BBC will show endless repeats of Dad’s Army.

There may be many worlds but until we are able to tunnel through the space-time continuum, the one we’re in will have to do and it has many countries that offer export opportunities for the UK fire industry. A recent survey carried out by the FIA among its ‘FIA Exporters’ focused on the targets for our members in respect of market intelligence and travelling as a group to countries of significant potential. Indicative of the current and proposed reach of UK fire companies, the total number of countries cited was over 60 which is a seriously sizeable set of outcomes. Fortunately, some proved more popular than others and these include India, Nigeria, Indonesia and Brazil as well as another dozen or so that are in the frame for market research and hopefully overseas missions.

The key for the Export Council now is to provide sufficient information to our exporters to enable them to decide whether any particular market has potential for their products and whether it’s worth leaving on a jet plane and getting over there. We’ve decided that this is best achieved through a structured approach rather than, as we did in the past, producing comprehensive reports covering a wide range of more generic and industry-specific factors to be considered. Instead, we intend to home in on a limited number of ‘make or break’ parameters that, if positive, will lead to a more detailed analysis and plans for group travel either based around existing exhibitions or comprising bespoke seminar events as we did in South Africa last year.    

We’ve already started gathering some initial intelligence on our top-sliced targets which includes, for example, fire regulations/legislation, approvals/certification requirements, fire trade associations and exhibitions in the region, and factors surrounding ease of doing business. At the next Export Council meeting, we’re organising break-out groups that will enable those present to share their own non-commercially-sensitive experiences of these markets.                  

It’s very much a step-by-step process which leads us nicely back to quantum theory which shows that energy comes in discrete packages as opposed to being a continuum. It has also led to the identification of an ever-growing number of sub-atomic particles. There are 25 fundamental ones plus a range of others that even quantum physicists don’t even bother counting; the scientific term for this quantity is ‘loads’, not unlike the huge array of countries that our members export to and have an interest in to develop their overseas interests.