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Measurement technology is a bit of an unsung hero

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Measurement technology is a bit of an unsung hero – it doesn’t have a high profile but crucially affects just about every technical product or process you come across. So companies do not often think that measurement can be the cause of a problem or could provide the next step in improving their processes.

measurement gauges

A new programme to help provide access to measurement technology facilities

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK's National Measurement Institute, partnered with Innovate UK to provide assistance and have launched a new programme 'Analysis for Innovators' designed to help companies of all sizes get access to our facilities and experts to work on problems.

Access to some of the worlds most sophisticated laboratories

NPL's role is highly diverse and finds our scientists working on world-leading science and engineering that impacts advanced manufacturing and the development of next-generation technologies and techniques. Our measurement expertise has underpinned prosperity and quality of life in the UK for more than a century. NPL is home to some of the world’s most extensive and sophisticated measurement science laboratories.

Helping solve productivity or performance issues

The idea for Analysis for Innovators was simple, to join forces with Innovate UK and three other national laboratories (NEL, STFC and LGC) and focus on supporting companies with intractable productivity or product performance problems.

filming video on a smartphone

A novel approach - give us problems, not solutions

The application process was pretty novel. Companies only had to supply the problem - no solution and no partners. The problem was captured on a two minute video – filmed on everything from a mobile phone through to elaborate scripts and high production value videos.

Some of the most engaging videos actually showed us problems in action, things breaking or not working. It was compelling to hear how companies had tried to resolve the issues and the barrier that these problems were creating in taking an idea forward.

problem solving

A wide range of problems

The problems span widely disparate technologies and sectors, for example we are working with Evolution-X Ltd to help determine the best low cost motion detection to fit in to a new smart sensors that will monitor and measure crowd flow.

We are also assisting AgPlus Diagnostics Ltd, who have found that around a third of the electrodes crucial to their medical test devices are arriving defective and require a quick method of checking suitability.

The value of face to face conversations

After talking it through face to face with NPL scientists, both companies could see real benefit from the collaboration. These are just two examples of the companies, who as part of Analysis for Innovators, met with experts from the national laboratories, had time together, face to face, to chat.

NPL experts also enjoyed this opportunity for some free thinking around the issue. In many cases, companies reported that they took away feedback and ideas from their conversations that helped them even if they did not progress to the next stage of the competition.

Over 50% of conversations led to a collaborative project

Something has worked, the Analysis for Innovators programme is in demand. NPL alone had technical discussions with more than 40 companies and ended up in a collaborative project with 24 of these companies.  Our scientists love the challenge of trying to solve the new problems and deal with productivity issues, so if you have a measurement or productivity problem then get in contact and chances are that there is someone working in one of the national laboratories, who will be able to assist.

Learn more about the Analysis for Innovators winning projects.

Follow National Physical Laboratory on Twitter: @npl

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  1. Comment by Steven Wilson, Head of Innovation, GCGP LEP posted on

    Strongly agree most SMEs are unaware of the benefits - see just one case study from the GCGP LEP -funded NPL pilot project in PV: