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National Timing Centre programme

Resilient time for the future

Assured Time and Frequency for the UK

Critical National Infrastructure systems including emergency services, telecoms networks, the energy sector, broadcast and finance institutes rely on increasingly precise, consistent and accurate time received by GNSS (Global navigation satellite system). Any breach or failure in GNSS would jeopardise these systems and could potentially impact the UK economy by over £1 billion per day (reported by London Economics in 2017). A precise reliant reliable timekeeping source, independent of GNSS, is crucial to help prevent serious societal and industrial impact in the event of a cyber-attack, jamming or spoofing.

The National Timing Centre programme (NTC), led by NPL, has started to develop the UK’s first nationally distributed time infrastructure. As the UK’s timing authority, it enables the UK to move away from reliance on GNSS and deliver resilient UK time and frequency that provides confidence to our Critical National Infrastructure.

More resilient and reliable time and frequency signals will accelerate innovation in new technologies such as smart grids, time-critical 5G and 6G applications, factories of the future, smart cities and connected autonomous vehicles.

As the speed of financial trading technology improves, accurate time will also allow for greater improvements in geographical time synchronisation and enhanced traceable time stamping for regulatory compliance.

The UK is recognised as world leading in time dissemination and the National Timing Centre programme is establishing a national timing authority to enable better regional timing capability. It aims to support the whole of the UK and offers organisations across the nation the support needed to secure competitive advantages.

The first two years of the programme saw the design of a multi-site resilient timing core, the launch of £2m worth of timing and frequency innovation grants with Innovate UK, and the creation of training and skills courses. The NTC is also building an active community amongst academia and industry for partnership and development opportunities. 

As the programme enters its third year, it will begin to implement the time scale on other secure sites, provide further funding for industry in 2022 to innovate in time and frequency products and services, and upskill its workforce through publishing new online training modules.

To learn more and be involved in the National Timing Centre programme, contact us:

Stay up to date

Listen to our National Timing Centre presentations which explore how trusted and assured time will be distributed across the UK and how it can support your business.

NTC webinars

Resilient Time for the Future
for Finance

Webinar: Time as an enabler for Financial Services Sector 9 Sept 15:00 BST

Register now

The criticality of extremely accurate Time

Read the article in National Geographic Magazine on how NPL is providing accurate timekeeping for industry and society in the UK. Learn how the National Timing Centre programme will help support stable finance markets, help to combat fraud, supply consistent power to the national grid and provide security to time-synchronised networks.


Quantum trading and the search for the perfect clock

Hear why the UK and US Governments are looking at alternatives to delivering time via satellites, improvement in geographical time synchronisation and supporting the use of quantum technology for High Frequency Trade (HFT).( Please note registration is required to read full article).  

 Quantum trading and the search for the perfect clock -

Resilient Time for the Future

10 years on from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s report on space systems that outlines the risks to Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), see how the NTC programme is realising the recommendations and mitigating the vulnerabilities. 

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Leon Lobo


Responding to the skills shortage

One of the key objectives of the National Timing Centre (NTC) programme is focused on responding to the specialist skills shortage in time, frequency and/or synchronisation (TFS).

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Delivering impact for the UK

The NTC programme will provide the resilience needed to protect critical national infrastructure, keep essential services running and ensure trust in new technologies. It will enable the UK to move away from reliance on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), like GPS, and leverage a range of time and frequency distribution technologies including fibre, communication satellites, and terrestrial broadcasts, as well as GNSS.

Improved resilience will help to strengthen our society through faster, more secure internet, robust energy supplies and reliable health and emergency services. The NTC programme will be key to the country’s critical infrastructure, bring structure to our data frameworks and support all sectors of industry. It will enable technological growth and innovation by enabling acceleration of new technologies such as smart grids, 5G, factories of the future, smart cities and connected autonomous vehicles. In conjunction with Innovate UK, the NTC programme will support UK companies to develop new products and services to meet these needs.

At NPL we are proud to be leading the way in providing trusted and assured time and frequency. The work undertaken by the team has ensured that the National Timing Centre programme will provide huge benefits to society, whilst underpinning secure applications in the future

Dr Pete Thompson FREng, CEO - NPL

NPL is the home of UK time

As the birthplace of atomic timekeeping and custodians of the UK’s national timescale, UTC(NPL), we are perfectly placed to lead the NTC programme. Our scientists are at the forefront of Time & Frequency research in the UK and provide timing and synchronisation products and services. We are trusted providers of a time-over-fibre service for the financial sector, NPLTime®.

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Our Time and Frequency research

We provide customers and partners with access to trusted and reliable time, and push the boundaries of timing technologies


Our Time and Frequency services

A reliable source of timing and synchronisation standards and services


The UK will play a leading role in developing resilient infrastructures for time, protecting and enhancing our critical national infrastructure. For the UK to maintain leadership in this field however, we need to ensure we foster the skills to continue to drive innovation.

Dr Leon Lobo, Head of the National Timing Centre programme - NPL

In the news

NPL’s Strategy Director, Robin Hart, was interviewed by BBC’s Evan Davis from Radio 4’s PM programme about the importance of accurate timekeeping, the National Timing Centre programme and why the UK needs resilient time and frequency. Read the full announcement on the National Timing Centre from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy:

UK world-leading in time dissemination

Find out how atomic clocks are used to timestamp stock trading: