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120th anniversary of NPL

2020 marks 12 decades of NPL

This year NPL celebrated its 120-year anniversary, it was 12 decades ago that we were founded for "standardising and verifying instruments, for testing materials, and for the determination of physical constants." We are one of the oldest standardising laboratories in the world and also one of the first metrology laboratories. In the years that have followed it has been our mission to provide the measurement capability that underpins the UK's prosperity and quality of life. Today this mission is unwavering, and our role remains to make a difference to UK industry and society. 

As our 120th year draws to a close, we reflect on this extraordinary year and, with the backdrop of a global pandemic, the extraordinary work that has been undertaken.

As the UK’s National Metrology Institute, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we made our staff and facilities available to support UK industry and society, including working with NHS trusts on ventilator provision, oxygen supply and data processing. Additionally, a team of our scientists and engineers created a low-cost ventilator design, in response to the need for affordable ventilator technologies in emerging markets.

This year also saw NPL launch its Measurement for Recovery (M4R) programme to support industry in its recovery from COVID-19 lockdowns by enabling access to world-leading experts and facilities to date we have received over 300 applications.

We’ve signed Memorandums of Understanding with the National Metrology Institute of South Africa, UCL and the Henry Royce Institute, further cementing our commitment to collaboration.

In a year that saw us spend a lot of time at home we provided science resources in a fun and engaging format, we also launched our Measurement at Home challenge series, to inspire the younger generation into engaging with STEM skills.

We also received one of eight young trees from the pips from Isaac Newton’s apple tree that were blasted into space with British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake!

This is just a small snapshot of some of the work, none of which would have been possible without our world-leading scientists and engineers. Throughout the year, their dedication and achievements have been honoured with awards from various prestigious institutes.

As we enter the festive period, we have reflected on some of the game-changing innovations from the last 120 years and how they have enabled our work today. We have selected an achievement per decade to create a montage that encapsulates our amazing science and engineering.

We wish to express our season’s greetings from everyone at NPL. We wish you peace, joy and prosperity throughout the coming year.


07 Dec 2020