Environment Agency signs £28m deal for new national flood-warning system

Defra agency picks IT and defence giant Leidos to support development of technology platform, which may include add additional functionality such as social alerts and greater use of geospatial tech

The Environment Agency has signed a multimillion-pound deal to support the creation of a new national technology platform to deliver flood warnings to citizens, government and the media.

On 4 March, the agency, an arm’s-length body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will enter into an initial six-year contract with Leidos. The deal, which can be extended for up to two additional years, is expected to be worth at least £28.3m, according to a newly published procurement notice.

The contract covers the creation and delivery of the Next Flood Warning System (NFWS) – a nationwide platform which will replace the incumbent Future Flood Warning System, which has been in operation for 20 years.

Over the next 18 months, Leidos will be expected to deliver a fully functional beta version and support a full and entire switchover from the current platform which operates across England and uses satellite technology to support the delivery of “a flood warning service to the public, partners and the media”.

As well as creating and managing the delivery of location-based warnings, the new platform should provide EA officials and other potential users with the ability to create “define geographic operational boundaries and target areas [and] provide a common operational picture by region”. The  system should also be able to “ingest data or publish data to GIS systems, address systems, flood risk mapping systems, telemetry systems, forecasting systems, and data sharing systems”.

Individuals can register to receive warnings, but the system should also support government to “obtain contact details for unregistered users for a region” that may be at risk of severe flooding.

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As well as this core functionality, the Environment Agency also expects Leidos to “provide the capability to introduce future services”, which may include issuing warnings via new channels, such as social media, smart devices or a dedicated mobile app. Warnings may also be issued about a greater range of  “environment-related incidents, such as drought”.

Other new functionality may include the expansion of geospatial services, as well the provision of “the option for other Defra Group bodies, risk-management authorities, and other UK government departments to utilise” the warning system.

The procurement notice said: “NFWS must have a product roadmap which includes functionality readily available in the proposed product suite beyond the functionality currently stated in the draft contract that the EA may wish to implement via the change control procedure. In addition, the supplier must propose new ideas, innovations, and service improvements via a biannual continuous improvement plan.”

The commercial document added that the existing two decade-old platform “has remained largely unchanged for many years… [and] is a complex technology estate, [that] includes telemetry systems, forecasting systems and services all feeding into messages being issued from” the system.

Fujitsu has served as the Environment Agency’s main tech support partner for FFWS for the past eight years, having first been signed to a deal expected to be worth £4.6m. The length and value of the contact has been extended a number of times since then, most recently to take the to potential conclusion date to 22 December 2025, with total spending over the life of the contract of up to £19.5m.

Fujitsu was also on the shortlist for the delivery of the new NFWS platform, alongside Accenture, IBM and eventual winner Leidos.

As well as IT services, the New York-listed firm also works in the fields of defence, aerospace and medical research. In the 2022 calendar year, the firm posted revenue of $14.4bn (£11.5bn).

Sam Trendall

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