National Physical Laboratory

Meeting Advice for policymakers

NPL's knowledge across a range of sectors and technologies can help it respond to the questions that policymakers need answered.

As measurement is a broad underpinning science, NPL contributes to challenges across a wide range of sectors and technologies that are useful for policymakers.

NPL supports evidence-based policymaking by collecting, validating and supplying accurate data to support the policymaking process; such as advising on biometrics technologies, managing the UK Air Quality Networks and ensuring nuclear waste is measured appropriately.


What are the main opportunities and challenges for the UK? And who is developing the science and technology to respond to them?

NPL ensures its scientific programmes are strongly aligned to the developing needs of UK industry, citizens and government. This enables us to deliver science with maximum impact.

Key elements to this process include:

Foresight and Strategy - We gather and analyse information from government reports, industry roadmaps, and input from industry, academia and advisory groups.

Consultation on Needs - We develop an understanding of the measurement interventions required by industry, regulators, the healthcare sector, environment and many others.

Programme Development - We develop science and research plans, establish benefits to be delivered, and identify and engage with potential partners.

Review - We seek independent evaluation and advice to assess our research and its impact.

Examples of programme roadmaps

NPL has over 500 scientists and other specialists, working with an extended network of over 2000 companies and 70 universities. We contribute to research in a broad range of sciences, sectors and technologies that can provide specialist knowledge to help inform discussions.

Measurement and standards across industry

60% of British Standards include a measurement requirement. Many NPL staff sit on National, European and International standards bodies, representing the UK to ensure new regulations are enforceable and realistic. This mean they can provide insight into any issues and upcoming legislation as needed.

NPL also played a leading role in developing the National Measurement System Strategy and led forward thinking in the worldwide measurement community by publishing its Vision for Metrology in the 2020s.

For further details, please contact Alan Brewin or Neil Harrison


How can we assess the impact of research and technology in the UK?

Our approach to assessing impact is to use a range of metrics. NPL can both provide evidence of its own work against these and advise policymakers on how to use them.

Macroeconomic studies have provided results including:

  • 2% of GDP is directly dependent on a robust measurement system
  • An estimated return of between £300M and £410M for the UK economy would result from an additional government investment of £6M (10% of current investment)
Independent industry surveys have provided more direct figures such as:
  • NPL helped organisations achieve financial benefits of £634M in one year through measurement innovation activity
  • 8 million tonnes of carbon emissions will be saved over the next decade through the Centre for Carbon Measurement at NPL
  • 92% of organisations attending NPL measurement training courses have seen improvements in their organisation

Case studies drill down into how individual organisations have used measurement to address challenges - many of our case studies include financial impact:

  • Measurement interventions achieved cost benefit ratios in the range of 1:10 to 1:35

Output metrics focus on activities which is the first step in the process of ensuring impact is delivered:

  • Each year around 20,000 people download NPL publications
  • In 2013, NPL had over 200 significant press articles and many thousands of mentions online

For further details, please contact Glenis Tellett or NPL Communications

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