2022 Richard Glazebrook Medal and Prize
Dr Peter Thompson for outstanding leadership of the National Physical Laboratory and the sustained impact of metrology on UK prosperity and quality of life.
Dr Peter Thompson has led the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) as its first CEO since 2015 and is an outstanding leader who has transformed the organisation. NPL maintains world-leading physics capabilities and his strategy to work across disciplines has delivered economic and societal impact for thousands of businesses and organisations in national challenge areas such as healthcare, environment and the digital economy.
He inspired NPL to develop an ambitious proposal for a £30 million National Timing Centre – a world first that will transform innovation in autonomous systems, communications and security. He collaborated with government and industry to develop the UK National Quantum Technology Programme, securing a £19 million Test and Evaluation programme for novel quantum applications such as quantum computing, communications and ultra-precise clocks. He simultaneously secured a new £30 million Quantum Laboratory to enable the most sensitive experiments imaginable.
Thompson’s leadership during the pandemic ensured that NPL delivered critical national infrastructure including for the NHS, providing radiation measurements for medical sterilisation, calibration for cancer treatments and radiopharmaceutical quality assurance. He mobilised laboratory staff to support the immediate challenges the country was facing with rapid testing and guidance for personal protective equipment, and an NPL engineering team designing and building an award-winning cheap pocket ventilator. Crucially, Thompson created a vision for an emergency programme that helped business recover and grow by accessing NPL’s staff and facilities. To date, this programme has provided metrology solutions to more than 600 micro and small businesses, enabling them to scale up, attract investment, meet regulatory requirements and accelerate products to the marketplace.
Thompson’s inclination to respond decisively to a national emergency were born out of time in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) where he received two MoD Chief Scientist Commendations for outstanding leadership; firstly in accelerating physics-based technologies to support overseas counter terrorism operations and secondly leading and launching MoD’s S&T Strategy. He also received the prestigious National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation from the Director of National Intelligence for his leadership in supporting operations with science and technology.
As deputy CEO and technical director at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Thompson identified the need for investment into new opportunities through technology watch and horizon scanning, leading to investment into cyber science and engineering for defence.
Thompson has transformed NPL’s approach to equality, diversity and inclusion with a values-led strategy by setting high standards for recruitment, retention and reward and leading by example, ensuring anyone working at or with NPL can feel safe and secure as a valued member of the team.