The National Physical Laboratory

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s national measurement institute.

National Physical Laboratory
Image: National Physical Laboratory


Its mission is to provide the underpinning measurement capability for the UK – a role that finds NPL staff working on world-leading science and engineering that impacts areas including healthcare, the innovation of new technologies, environmental monitoring and advanced manufacturing.

NPL has been developing and applying unique, solutions-based science, engineering, technology and standards since 1900. It’s the birthplace of Alan Turing’s ACE computer, the first universal computer of its kind; packet switching, the basis of the internet; and atomic time, the backbone of GPS and global communications.

Today, NPL is supporting the development of next-generation technologies and techniques, ranging from new antibiotics to tackle resistance and more effective cancer treatments, to unhackable quantum communications and superfast 5G. Based in Teddington, south-west London, NPL employs more than 500 scientists and is home to 388 of the world’s most extensive and sophisticated measurement science laboratories.

In 2015, NPL formed a strategic partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Surrey to grow the impact from science through joint research and an innovative postgraduate institute. NPL also has regional bases across the UK, established to increase both the volume of measurement research in the UK and the impact of the national measurement infrastructure on the UK's prosperity and quality of life.

NPL recruits around six to eight young people annually for its physics-based junior science apprentice programme (plus apprentices in other areas). “We’re looking for people with a good understanding of NPL and an interest in science,” says Anupa Pandya, who coordinates NPL’s apprenticeship scheme. “It depends on business need and we make no promises at the start of the programme, but in most years we have kept on some apprentices as assistant research scientists after completion of their course. We’re happy to then support their applications for professional qualifications like RSciTech.” NPL apprentice Christine Thorogood discusses her experiences on our case studies pages.

Apprentices are valued members of the team at NPL. “I am immensely proud of the significant contribution that NPL’s apprentices make to our scientific research and the real world impact it has,” says Dr Peter Thompson, NPL’s chief executive officer. “The professional skills developed through this and similar schemes are crucial to the UK’s continued success in scientific research and innovation.”

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