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The Measure of our Success 2022

We ensure trust in measurements and data so trade can flourish

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Supporting trade and encouraging innovation

Through the National Measurement System (NMS), the UK Government funds NPL and other partner laboratories, to provide the world-class measurement science that supports the public sector and businesses with traceable and increasingly accurate standards of measurement.

  • Every year, more than 74,000 UK businesses demonstrate traceability to UK standards through calibrations originating at the NMS laboratories.

  • Over 400 unique measurement services and reference materials are supplied to over 390 UK-based firms and overseas customers.
  • We collaborate with more than 530 UK-based firms on innovation projects.
  • Around 370 UK firms can attribute £539 million in turnover to sales of new and improved products that would have not otherwise existed.
  • NMS impact generates a direct economic benefit amounting to £142 million per annum.
  • Regularly supported firms are defined as those who have worked with NPL five (or more) times during a six-year period.

Heat map of the UK showing the regional distribution of our regularly supported firms

Diagram of the UK with varying shades of red to demonstrate regional distribution of our regularly supported firms. Dark red in the south east of the UK and London, graduating to a lighter red in the Midlands and a pale pink for Scotland, Wales and the South West of England. Northern Ireland and the North East are the palest shade.

Darker shades of red represent regions with a higher number of regularly supported firms, whereas lighter shades of red represent regions with a lower number of regularly supported firms.

Demonstrating a quality control method for liquid dispersions of 2D materials

NPL developed a new method for the characterisation of 2D materials in dispersion using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) proton relaxation. It has the potential to be a quality control tool to understand batch-to-batch variation during manufacturing of nanomaterials, enable faster product development and ensure product quality. NPL is working with instrument manufacturers and material producers, to optimise the method and bring it into industrial production lines.

Read our characterisation of 2D materials case study

Monitoring the temperature of nuclear waste with Sellafield Ltd

NPL calibrated thermal imagers for nuclear waste temperature monitoring at Sellafield Ltd. This improves the early identification of storage boxes that are showing an increase in temperature over time, enabling the safe storage and accurate monitoring of nuclear waste on an on-going basis.

safe storage boxes and accurate monitoring of nuclear waste

Read our calibrating thermal imagers case study

Expansion to the SI prefix range

Richard BrownProf Richard Brown, NPL’s Head of Metrology, led the proposal recommending an expansion of the range of prefixes used within the International System of Units (SI). In November 2022, measurement scientists and government representatives voted at the General Conference on Weights and Measures to adopt:

  • ronna for 1027 (symbol R)

  • quetta for 1030  (symbol Q)
  • ronto for 10−27  (symbol r)
  • quecto for 10−30 (symbol q)

This was the first expansion to the SI prefix range since 1991 and was driven by the requirements of data science, digital storage and the exponential growth of the global datasphere, which is already using prefixes at the top of the existing scale. The prefixes for very small numbers are useful for quantum science and particle physics.

More about the expansion to the SI prefix range

Chief Scientist elected to CIPM 

J T Janssen

Chief Scientist, Prof J T Janssen FREng, was elected in a personal capacity to join the International Committee on Weights and Measures (CIPM). This 18-person committee directs and supervises the international organisation responsible for the international system of units and the maintenance of the equivalence of worldwide measurement standards.


Explaining the expansion to the SI Prefix range

When measurements become very big or very small, we still use SI units, but together with SI prefixes, watch our short film to learn more.

First cohort of data scientists complete new standard 

Dr Marina Romanchikova, Principal Research Scientist; Dr Paul Duncan, Senior Research Scientist; Dr Reece Saint, Higher Research Engineer and Dr Elizabeth Cooke, Higher Research Scientist, were all in the first cohort of data scientists to complete the new Advanced Data Science Professional Standard from the Alliance for Data Science Professionals.

Data scientists to complete the new Advanced Data Science Professional Standard

Read our Alliance for Data Science Professionals story

Using a Kibble balance to perform ultrasonic power measurements with INMETRO

NPL and INMETRO can now perform accurate and repeatable reference-level ultrasonic power measurements, which are currently undertaken using a conventional mass balance. This new technique allows ultrasonic power to be measured in industrial and medical applications without the need for gravitational corrections, simplifies the traceability chain and improves the repeatability and accuracy of calibration.

Read more about the Kibble balance

Metrology Research Roadmaps

NPL’s leading scientists created twelve roadmaps for the highest priority research areas. They show the critical metrology that needs to be in place over the next decade, as well as highlighting the measurement challenges and barriers.

The roadmaps altered how the research and metrology community approached the creation of innovative solutions. They provide a framework from which researchers, funding bodies and businesses can engage with us. They also enable NPL and other research organisations to identify future skills requirements, enhance career pathways and offer fulfilling careers by providing a long-term perspective on research programmes

Download our Metrology Research Roadmaps

New record set for comparing distant ultra-stable lasers

Leading an international consortium, this work demonstrated that it is possible to compare two geographically distant ultrastable lasers and measure their fundamental noise using an optical fibre network. The higher precision of optical standards will lead to immediate benefits for the critical infrastructures of our society including communication, synchronisation and navigation systems.

Read our ultra-stable lasers news story

NPL and BIPM lead the digitalisation of the SI

A new digital framework for realising the SI, specifically the metre, is underway. The transition to a digitalised SI will lead to fewer mistakes and more automated operation and will be ready to accommodate advances in technology.

SI units

Read more about the SI

Improving the accuracy of international standards for graphene

The world’s first international comparison of graphene measurements provides a verified source of data and more accurate measurement standards for use by the global graphene industry. The work was led by NPL through the Versailles Project on Advanced Materials and Standards (VAMAS). Reliable, reproducible and accurate measurements of graphene’s properties, through international standards, will provide more accurate and precise measurement standards for the global graphene industry.

Read our graphene news story

Pioneering advances in vacuum instrumentation 

Ian Gilmore

Professor Ian Gilmore, NPL Senior Fellow and visiting Professor at the University of Nottingham, was awarded the IUVSTA Prize for pioneering advances in vacuum instrumentation and enabling innovative multidisciplinary research and development.

Read Ian Gilmore's profile

NPL Atom trap for trapping and manipulating individual ions' NPL Atom trap for trapping and manipulating individual ions'

Water impurity analysis improves the realisation of the temperature scale

By determining trace impurities at the level of parts per billion (ppb) in samples of ultra-pure water through inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), we can help understand how the residual impurities effect the temperature realised by the triple point of water cell. This work represents an improvement to the realisation of the temperature scale, and as such is an important part of NPL’s work in providing measurement assurance for stakeholders in the UK and further afield.

Read our water impurity news story

The Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute (AMPI)

In 2022 AMPI:

  • Created 18 jobs in the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester region, of which 3 were apprenticeships and 4 were postdoctoral researchers.

  • Raised an additional £500k of R&D investment.
  • Received 9 applications from businesses in the AMPI region for the Innovation for Machinery (I4M) scheme. This resulted in 3 projects now live, 2 assigned and 4 in processing.
  • Represented the AMPI SIPF Programme at 5 high profile manufacturing sector events including one attended by the Mayors of West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, the MACH Exhibition, and the NPL Manufacturer Measurement Network (MMN).

* Based on data from 10 AMPI Consortium Partners

AMPI is an industry led institute driving innovation for the UK’s advanced machinery designers and manufacturers. As part of this, the 5-year, £22.6m UKRI Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) programme, led by NPL, is stimulating innovation and the adoption of new technology through collaboration and direct support to industry.

More about Advanced Machinery and Productivity Institute (AMPI)

Improving clinical performance for Oxford HighQ

NPL helped inform and optimise the modelling of Oxford HighQ's novel instrumentation for particle analysis using cryo-transmission electron microscopy. The ability to visualise encapsulating systems is essential for ensuring reproducible manufacturing, supporting regulatory approval and improving clinical performance.

Instrumentation for particle analysis using cryo-transmission electron microscopy“NPL’s team provided us with new and important insights that are key for the development and validation of our novel technology. The collaboration generated a useful dataset to inform the optimisation of our technology and expand its application range.”
Aurélien Trichet - CTO of Oxford HighQ

Read our particle analysis case study

Pioneering work on temperature measurement instrumentation improves productivity and safety

temperature measurement instrumentation

Developments in temperature measurement instrumentation and process control have led to improved efficiency, productivity and safety in industry. NPL received the Institute of Measurement and Control’s Cornish Award for this work, which has already had an impact in ship building, steel manufacturing, automotive manufacturing, aerospace heat treatment, nuclear decommissioning and waste storage, waste incineration and healthcare.

Read our temperature measurement news story

Developing in-line quality control of production of advanced materials  with Thomas Swan & Co

NPL worked with Thomas Swan & Co to demonstrate the use of Raman spectroscopy for quality control of graphene and related 2D materials. As the manufacturing rates increase, in-line measurements will become both more important and widespread, so it is important to understand the measurement challenges and increase confidence in this low-cost solution.

Read 2D materials case study


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Our research and measurement solutions support innovation and product development. We work with companies to deliver business advantage and commercial success.
Contact our Customer Services team on +44 20 8943 7070