National Physical Laboratory

Minister for Universities, Science and Cities visits NPL

On Thursday 12 March 2015, Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, visited the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

Greg Clark

Greg Clark talked to staff about the future of NPL and announced that NPL's new Chair of the Board will be Dr David Grant CBE, before embarking on a short tour of some of the facilities and finally meeting some of NPL's Apprentices.

Most of David Grant's career has comprised leadership roles in the electronics and electrical engineering industry, and he was also Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University from 2001 to 2012.

Brian Bowsher, Director of NPL, said:

"We are delighted that David Grant will be leading the organisation as Chair of NPL Management Limited, he brings a rich experience from both industry and academia which will be invaluable for NPL."

On his tour of NPL, Greg Clark visited three facilities:

NPL's Clinical Linear Accelerator (Linac) enables the delivery of radiotherapy calibrations with reduced uncertainties. The dose in every radiotherapy treatment provided by UK hospitals is determined by instruments calibrated directly against the NPL primary standard. The facility also carries out research addressing the requirement for increasingly accurate dose measurement, as advancements in modern radiotherapy systems allow the delivery of increasingly complex treatments to achieve better targeting to a tumour, while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. 180,000 people every year undergoing radiotherapy rely on NPL for accurate delivery and it is estimated that an additional 145 will have survived each year due to the high level of accuracy of their treatment.

NPL's Microwave Anechoic Chamber provides a low-reflection environment for the accurate characterisation of antennas. Precise antenna calibration is essential for applications such as mobile phone network coverage, remote sensing, radar and communications. NPL has just provided the Chinese National Institute of Metrology with an exact replica of this facility; a two year project which included: design, construction, installation, validation and training. NPL helped mobile network operators test the claims made by antenna manufacturers to ensure that the new network to support 3G was made up of antenna with comparable performance data, saving £50 million.

The Quantum Metrology Institute covers all of NPL's leading-edge quantum science and measurement research and provides the expertise and facilities needed for academia and industry to test, validate, and ultimately commercialise new quantum research and technologies. NPL's current research includes: developing compact atomic clocks to deliver precision timekeeping in communications; the first successful trial of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology over a live 'lit' fibre network and quantum metrology research to establish a new SI system of units based on the fundamental physical constants.

Following the tour, the Minister met with NPL Apprentices, as part of National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from 9-13 March 2015. NPL's Advanced Apprenticeship Programme was launched in 2013 with its first cohort, and a second cohort joined NPL in September 2014. The Apprentices receive an 18-month programme of work experience, training and qualifications at the end of it.

NPL Management Limited (NPLML) transferred from Serco to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) on 1 January 2015. NPL and BIS remain in discussion with the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey to create a partnership for the future operation of NPL.

Dr David Grant CBE is currently Chairman of STEMNET and Senior Independent Director of Renishaw plc and IQE plc. He is also a non-executive director of the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

David's achievements and accolades include:

  • PhD in Engineering Science at Durham University in 1974
  • The IEE's Mensforth Gold Medal in 1996
  • CBE in 1997 for his contribution to the UK's Foresight Programme
  • Elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1997
  • Elected an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge in 2000
  • Elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales in 2011

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Last Updated: 16 Mar 2015
Created: 12 Mar 2015


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