Strategic partnership with the National Physical Laboratory

In 2015 the University of Surrey, along with the University of Strathclyde, entered into a strategic partnership with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with the aim of drawing on the expertise and knowledge from all of the organisations to address some of the major scientific challenges we face today.

About the partnership

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK's National Measurement Institute and is a world leader in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards in areas such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace, the digital world, energy and healthcare.

This partnership brings together academia with industry and government to address key challenges underpinned by measurement science and enables all parties to strengthen both the excellence of their science and their engagement with business."The partnership will help to boost NPL's and the partners' scientific excellence, will strengthen engagement with business, and will make more of the facilities and the site. An important focus will be to develop activity to support postgraduate research and training at Teddington and across the UK." David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science (at the launch in 2014)

Fingerprinting technology for drug detection

Dr Melanie Bailey is a fellow of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) working with National Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry Imaging at the National Physical Laboratory and Ionoptika Ltd.

Her team has identified differences between the fingerprints of people who touched cocaine compared with those who have ingested the drug, even if the hands are not washed. The science behind the advance is the mass spectrometry imaging tools applied to the detection of cocaine and its metabolites in fingerprints.

Surrey secure c.£3m for innovation in solar cell design

A research team led by Surrey colleagues has secured almost £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and key industrial partners to drive innovation in perovskite solar cell design. This type of solar cell can be used to power wearable technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) devices – a rapidly growing market that the more established crystalline silicon solar cell technology cannot adequately serve.

Under project lead Professor Ravi Silva, the team includes colleagues at the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and Cambridge, and partners including the National Physical Laboratory, NSG Group, Swift Solar, Ossila, Oxford PV, Coatema and QinetiQ.

PostGraduate Institute for Measurement Science

PGI logo

The PostGraduate Institute for Measurement Science (PGI) is delivering a PhD programme that addresses the need for measurement science to support the development of the UK’s economy and improve quality of life. Positioned at the interface between academia and industry, the PGI is a gateway for companies and research organisations looking to utilise measurement in order to perform research and innovate.

Over the next five years, the PGI aims to extend its international reach and partnerships, expanding the training offering to attract researchers and stakeholders alike and develop a sustainable cohort size with increased industry engagement.

PGI's five-year celebration

The PGI has helped develop the next generation of world-class measurement scientists, with the number of students steadily increasing to over 200 researchers. Since its outset, the institute has seen over 140 students graduate, 43% of which have moved into industrial roles. 


Students work on important challenges, with many uniquely placed to provide the resource and solutions needed to accelerate the translation of research and create impact on commerce and quality of life.

The PGI’s researchers are making significant contributions to the scientific community, collectively having published 349 papers, participated in key international conferences and been involved in many pioneering research projects.

One example of the extraordinary researchers supported through the PGI is Jasmine Bone, a joint PhD student funded by the University of Surrey, NPL and Element Materials Technology. Jasmine has been working with industry partners to ensure the safety of composite materials used in marine environments. She has actively sought opportunities to promote her research and secured additional funding in the form of a three-year Industrial Fellowship with the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

Our students and alumni have achieved significant prizes and awards during their studies, including:

  • Robert Shearman, who won the Institute of Physics Early Career Award for outstanding contributions to the field of nuclear physics
  • Grigorio Rigas, who won the Institution of Engineering and Technology Postgraduate Scholarship for outstanding research on printed nanoelectronics

“It has been tremendously exciting and rewarding developing the PGI, being witness to the meaningful outcomes and impact that our postgraduate researchers have achieved. We are all incredibly proud of how they have developed and gone on to bigger and better things within NPL, in industry or academia, using their time at the PGI as a launch pad for a successful and productive career.”
Richard Burguete, PGI Director, NPL

Research themes

Our University and the NPL are working across three main research themes:

This theme builds on a long-standing three-way collaboration between our University, NPL and the Royal Surrey County Hospital, supported by a number of joint roles across the institutions.

We are focusing on three main strands of research:

  • Medical physics covering dosimetry (radiation monitoring)
  • Medical imaging (much of the research within this strand is aimed at developing safe, effective solutions for innovative cancer therapy and diagnosis)
  • Nuclear metrology.

If you'd like to find out more about the research projects being worked on around this theme then visit our Ion Beam Centre and our Radiation and Medical Physics Group websites.

Surrey and NPL are helping to pioneer a new era of Earth observation. Big data from Earth observation satellites and in-situ sensors are forming part of the emerging internet of things and will play a crucial role in improving business productivity, reducing operating costs and improving the wellbeing of people and animals.

In response to a growing demand to understand the quality and provenance of data in the end user application, NPL and the University of Surrey have established the Global Sensing and Satellite Centre of Excellence (GloSS) which carries out research and demonstrates data quality in a new era of Earth observation information services in agriculture, future cities and maritime surveillance.

We are focusing on three main strands of research:

  • Transport infrastructure for future cities
  • New crop information for farmers through sensor and satellite data innovation
  • Surveillance of the maritime environment.

This research theme encompasses two key areas:

  1. The metrology challenges posed by the emerging 5G communications network
  2. The use of quantum technologies in the fields of computing, communications and sensing.

Our University has a 5G/6G Innovation centre that is dedicated to addressing key areas such as dealing with radio interference, intelligent antennas, measurement and modelling of nonlinear devices and metrology for 5G and 6G communications.

The emergence of quantum technologies has led to the global standards for currents and resistances, energies, time and mass to be redefined in terms of quantum properties. The Surrey-NPL partnership is working on developing ways of measuring tiny amounts of matter (often single, isolated atoms) – research that will lay the foundations for applications in computation, communications and sensing.

To learn more about a recent research piece by Ben Murdin, see this article about how scientists are hoping to redefine the second using anatomical clocks.

Get in contact

If you're interested in collaborating with us or have any questions then please email Rachel Hargreaves (Partnerships Manager) or Jayne Nutbeen (NPL Administrator, Research Support Office).