The city of Ghent and Ghent Fire Brigade have been co-operating on innovation procurement contracts for years with the aim of finding innovative solutions to improve efficiency and to reduce the adverse environmental impact of logistics transport. To identify and purchase the most suitable energy-efficient emergency vehicles, the city of Ghent and the fire service joined forces with the UK's London Fire Brigade (LFB).
The LFB is one of the world’s largest firefighting organisations dealing with 140 000 emergencies per year and with a 500-vehicle fleet. The co-operation between Ghent and London was facilitated by the EU co-funded FIRED-UP project, which brought together Ghent’s ambition to purchase new second-line firefighting vehicles and LFB’s plans to install telematics to meet London’s low-emission zone requirements. Second-line interventions cover all logistics necessary following the arrival of the first fire engines. This can include vehicles providing additional tools or extra foam, to name just a few. The idea of purchasing new vehicles through a joint procurement contract was considered. However, the differences in management, laws, country-specific requirements, and the different specific equipment needs proved too complex. Instead Ghent and London decided to support, advise and comment on each other’s procurement processes, in order to shape the framework contracts to mutual benefit.
During an initial scoping session, requirements for the new second-line fire fighting vehicles were defined as:
- Multifunctional - several functions combined into one vehicle to comply with the specifications
- Ecological - producing lower emissions by aiming for the EURO VI standard, using materials which can be recycled or reused, and through lower fuel consumption
- Economical - lower running costs for the whole fleet (e.g. do more with the same fleet, or do the same amount with fewer vehicles)
Before launching their tender, Ghent issued a ‘prior information notice’ (PIN) and organised a market consultation in February 2014 which allowed procurers and potential suppliers to meet and to exchange information on the technological options and related risks. The consultation mainly targeted chassis and engine builders, truck-body builders, and manufacturers of cranes, forklifts and container systems. The tender for the procurement of innovative, multi-purpose, second-line vehicles was launched in June 2014. It set out specifications including functions to meet the needs of the users, technological solutions and governance requirements.
As a result of this process, the City of Ghent and the Ghent Fire Brigade have established a framework contract for a multifunctional second-line fire vehicle which will be more efficient and have a smaller environmental footprint for daily logistics transport. The vehicles have been ordered and delivery is in progress.
In contrast to regular procurement, innovation procurement has more advanced procedures and requires more extensive interaction. This implies higher risk of a breach of legislation, technical failure if the solution is not feasible or suboptimal, and/or delays in the process. Access to London Fire Brigade’s experience was an essential factor in ensuring the success of Ghent’s procurement process. The framework contract allows fire brigades and logistic operators from across Europe to also buy this innovative solution and to adapt it to their needs.