Public Release:  Universities of Surrey and Strathclyde selected as strategic partners in the future operation of the National Physical Laboratory

University of Surrey

The new alliance will see the two universities and NPL collaborate to bring together their track record of working with business and industry and their complementary academic strengths.

Working with BIS and NPL the successful bid will help to shape the scientific priorities of the UK. The establishment of a Graduate Institute, which will train up to 300 high-calibre PhD students, will provide a pipeline of skilled researchers. Working with the staff at NPL, the potential of the Laboratory will be grown through the creation of a series of regional hubs which will reflect local expertise and business needs.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said: "Following a formal competitive process, I have decided that the Universities of Surrey and Strathclyde will become preferred partners and will now work with BIS and NPL to develop a strategic partnership to lead NPL into the next exciting phase in its future.

"The partners' proposal provides the best opportunity to meet the aims set at the beginning of this process. The partnership will help to boost NPL's and the partners' scientific excellence, will strengthen engagement with business, and will make more of the facilities and the site. An important focus will be to develop activity to support postgraduate research and training at Teddington and across the UK."

The partnership will enable all parties to strengthen both the excellence of their science and their engagement with business. The Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey are leading international higher education institutions whose work has an impact on society and the global economy through pioneering research in priority sectors. They share an enterprising spirit and a strong track record of working with business and industry, achieved by removing barriers between scientific discoveries and commercial applications. Both are well-positioned to have a major positive impact on the future success and growth of NPL.

The alliance will work in partnership with the University of Cambridge, the University of Huddersfield and LGC on a range of complementary activities within NPL. The joint bid was also supported by a large group of major industrial organisations.

Strathclyde's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, said: "NPL is a world-class centre of excellence in developing and applying measurement standards and its work with business and industry is well-established. As a leading international technological university, Strathclyde is perfectly positioned to help grow both the scientific and commercial engagement activity of this globally recognised Institute.

"Together, we will invest our joint expertise to significantly increase engagement across UK business and industry, raise our international research profile and deepen collaboration with the UK science base. The alliance underlines our commitment to the development of 'gold standard' postgraduate training which will develop the metrology experts of tomorrow."

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, Vice-Chancellor for the University of Surrey, added: "This strategic partnership will draw on the partners' combined expertise to deliver the Minister's vision for NPL. NPL's focus on scientific excellence and industrial impact perfectly complements Surrey's world-class research in the key areas of electronics, communications, physics, health, medicine, and space science. By expanding the partnership's research community and capabilities we are confident that the effects will not only be felt by industry across the UK, but also internationally."

A number of opportunities have been identified to build on the strengths of the partners to allow NPL to make a step change in capability, influence and impact. These include:

  • Joint working in areas of strength such as space, healthcare and industrial applications of metrology.

  • Developing a presence for NPL, in partnership with other organisations, across the UK through regional hubs; bringing expertise and services closer to user communities who can benefit.

  • Creating a vibrant research community at the Teddington site including a new Post Graduate Institute training of up to 300 high-calibre PhD students, which will provide a pipeline of skilled researchers.

In the new arrangement, Government will own NPL's operating company with the expectation that Vice-Chancellors of the two universities will join the NPL Board alongside BIS. NPL will retain its role, status and international influence as a world leading National Measurement Institute meeting the UK's needs.

Brian Bowsher, Director of NPL, said "We are pleased that the Minister has agreed that NPL should be a Government owned company and are delighted to be working with the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey. We already have strong links with both universities and see exciting opportunities to broaden NPL's science, develop our regional footprint, and continue the growth and impact of our work for UK industry. Scientific research is often limited by what can practically be measured. NPL's research pushes this boundary and works with industry to apply this knowledge in practice - making a real difference to people's lives and livelihoods. The partnership has identified a number of ambitious and exciting opportunities to work together to bring about real change in capability, influence and impact for the UK."

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