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Finding its voice

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, providing the foundation for a whole host of technological advances – whether quantum communications, 5G, Advanced Materials or data. All require reliable measurement if they are to succeed.

According to its CEO Dr Peter Thompson: “Many people are unaware of the scope, scale or quality of work that NPL delivers or the part that it has played in some of the biggest discoveries in modern history.”

Based in Teddington, south-west London, NPL employs over 500 scientists and is home to 388 of the world’s most extensive and sophisticated laboratories.

With regional bases across the UK, the impact of the work undertaken by the laboratory, whether in terms of science, technology or engineering, has been felt by everyone and everywhere.

When it comes to research in to quantum technology, for example, NPL employs over 100 scientists, engineers and technologists; that’s more than some EU states employ at a national level.

The NPL has, however, often been a silent partner to industry. Thankfully, it is silent no more. This month, it has been re-launched in a move to help cultivate a variety of areas from which the UK can benefit, including advanced manufacturing, digital, energy and environment, life sciences and health.

With a vision to help support UK industry, NPL is also looking to align itself more closely with the Government’s forthcoming Industrial Strategy.

Measurement is often overlooked and its impact underestimated. Accurate measurement makes a real difference; whether that’s saving millions off a company’s bottom line or helping companies to win multi million pound orders.

In the digital space, NPL is applying the latest advances in measurement to provide assurance across the entire digital ecosystem, whether that’s to do with the intelligent and effective use of data, the quality and accuracy of signals, or the ability of new digital products to achieve what they claim.

New technologies and processes offer enormous possibilities for growth, but there are barriers: a lack of standardisation, verification and, in many cases, confidence.

Forging stronger links between itself and the market will be crucial if NPL is to help create the measurement standards that will support new trade and commercial innovation and provide assurance that the technology being used and embedded in millions of new devices actually works.

High time, then, that the NPL’s work was better recognised and its work more widely understood.

Neil Tyler

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