18 September 2017
Last year, the FIA commissioned research from Kingston University on the English and Welsh Fire and Rescue Services’ current Research and Development activities, a project financed through the FIA Research Fund.
Among its detailed findings, it indicated that significant R&D work takes place within each Service but found that this effort was largely unstructured and uncoordinated. This inevitably leads to much duplication and processes which are neither efficient nor cost-effective. It was estimated that taking salary costs alone, annual expenditure on R&D is a minimum of £9 m per annum and probably closer to £13 m per year and this strongly suggested that a more centralised approach would offer cost savings as well as producing better results.
The Report was warmly received across the Fire and Rescue sector and including the then Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, as well as within the Home Office and the Chief Fire Officers Association. It continues to reverberate as the key catalyst for a more collaborative approach to FRS R&D and has led directly to the formation of an FRS R&D Hub which is already carrying out centralised equipment evaluations which began with a practical analysis of Hydraulic Rescue Tools.
In the last few weeks alone, copies of the Report have been provided to the Labour oppositions spokesman on fire, Chris Williamson, and to Zoe Billingham who is Lead Inspector for the Fire and Rescue Services within the HM Inspectorate.
Our own work has been augmented by a study by the CFOA FRS R&D Team that focuses on the procurement and R&D activities within each FRS by product type and including future requirements. This has already influenced the R&D Team in their selection of collaborative projects and is very helpful to the supply industry in understanding the procurement and R&D landscape as determined directly from the FRSs.
The work of the FRS R&D Hub is therefore to be warmly welcomed as it acts as a central focal point for R&D activities across the Fire and Rescue Services, including equipment evaluations where duplicated effort is so costly to both the Services and the suppliers. The FIA’s FIRESA Council, and notably Council member James Jones who has led on this issue, have undoubtedly played a vital role in bringing this most important development to fruition.