Published: 27 March 2015

Launch of new partnership arrangement for future operation of the National Physical Laboratory

Today the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) formally signed a partnership agreement with the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey which will set a new strategic direction for the future of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

The Universities will be investing £10m over the next five years which will help create five new Joint Research Centres – including a focus on quantum technologies, low carbon energy and advanced manufacturing – three new Regional Hubs, and a Postgraduate Institute.
Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said:

“This £10 million strategic partnership with the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey heralds a new chapter for NPL – paving the way for further scientific excellence and stronger engagement with business.

With five new research centres and a new postgraduate institute there’s a lot to celebrate and the recent appointment of David Grant as Chair of the NPL Board will help guide this ambitious plan for growth.”

Brian Bowsher, Director of NPL, said Following our move to BIS ownership in January, we are delighted to be signing this partnership agreement. NPL already has very strong links with both universities and we are excited by the ambitious and exciting opportunities to work together to enhance our science and increase our impact across the UK.”

The Universities of Surrey and Strathclyde are leading international higher education institutions whose work has an impact on society and the global economy through pioneering research in priority sectors. They share an enterprising spirit and a strong track record of working with business and industry, achieved by removing barriers between scientific discoveries and commercial applications. The Partnership will also benefit from the close involvement of the Universities of Cambridge and Huddersfield and LGC.

Progress has already been made towards delivering these goals: the Vice-Chancellors of the two universities will now join the NPL Board, along with BIS; the Postgraduate Institute is preparing to see its first intake of students in October of this year; the Global Satellites and Sensing Centre of Excellence (GloSS) has been formed as a partnership between the University of Surrey and NPL; and the NPL Scotland Hub is at an advanced state of planning. Key themes of the hub will include Power Networks, Advanced Forming and Forging, Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation, and Quantum Technologies.

Strathclyde’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, said: “NPL is a world-class centre of excellence in developing and applying measurement standards and its work with business and industry is well-established. As a leading international technological university, Strathclyde will use its extensive research base and its industry and international connections to help grow still further the capability and reputation of this globally recognised Institute.

“The strength of this partnership lies in its inclusive and open approach to research and innovation and Strathclyde is very much looking forward to working with our partners to shape the future strategy for measurement science globally for the benefit of science and society and to create sustainable, long term economic growth.”

Commenting on the partnership, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey said: “This partnership of excellence in measurement sciences will not only benefit a range of industries across the UK, but will have international impact in key areas such as healthcare, meteorology, communications and space exploration. The University of Surrey, along with Strathclyde, will bring its collaborative ethos to the fore, connecting academia with industry to bring expertise and services closer to the communities who can benefit. We are delighted that the formal partnership has been signed and that the practical benefits of this new relationship will soon be seen across key areas.”

Editors' Notes

The selection of the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey to enter into a partnership with BIS and NPL was announced in July 2014 following a competitive process. Today formally marks finalisation of the agreement with the University partners and commencement of the partnership. As part of the partnership, it is expected that the Vice-Chancellors of the two universities will join the NPL Board.

NPL’s focus will continue to be its role as a world leading National Measurement Institute (NMI). Scientific research is often held back by what we can practically measure: NPL undertakes research to push back that boundary and works with industry to apply that knowledge in practice – making a real difference to people’s lives and livelihoods.

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