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Serco farewell to NPL after 19 years of innovation


Serco said goodbye to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) at the end of December 2014 after 19 years of extraordinary innovation and science that has seen the establishment build a world-leading reputation and deliver billions of pounds of benefit for the UK economy.  During that period under Serco’s management and leadership, NPL has delivered an extraordinary variety and breadth of accomplishments for the UK’s economy and industry.  Some of the key achievements during that time have been: -

  • The beneficial impact of NPL’s work to the economy is estimated at £2Bn pa.
  • In 2012, NPL’s role in building the first maser to operate at room temperature was nominated by Physics World as one of the top ten breakthroughs of the year (CERN topped the list for their discovery of a Higgs-like particle).
  • NPL was instrumental in gaining a 50% increase in European funding for the EMPIR programme, with a total of EUR 600m.
  • It has been estimated that work carried out by the Centre of Carbon Measurement at NPL will save eight million tonnes of carbon emissions reductions (2% of UK footprint) and over half a billion pounds in economic benefit over the next decade.
  • Annually over 145,000 people undergoing radiotherapy have relied upon NPL for accurate delivery; it has been estimated that NPL’s contribution to improving the accuracy of the radiation dose patients receive can save at least an additional 145 lives each year.
  • NPL’s work on graphene - the new material that could revolutionise the future of high-speed electronics - has been widely acknowledged following a paper in Nature Nanotechnology and then was cited as one of 44 papers as part of 2010’s Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • NPL achieved 11% per annum growth in third-party business since 2004; such work now accounts for over 40% of the lab’s revenue, with £52M orders achieved in 2014.
  • Under Serco’s management, Alan Turnbull was the first NPL scientist in many years to be elected as a Fellow of The Royal Society; Professor John Pethica, NPL’s Chief Scientist was knighted, Seton Bennett was awarded a CBE, Kamal Hossain an OBE, and Patrick Gill and Michael de Podesta were awarded MBEs.
  • NPL’s caesium fountain atomic clock is accurate to 1 second in 158 million years and NPL is playing a key role in introducing rigour to high frequency trading in the City through NPLTime.
  • Over half a million people have viewed the World’s Smallest Snowman, 1/5th the width of a human hair - created at NPL

Commenting on the occasion, Ian Downie, Serco’s Managing Director of Strategic Partnerships, said: “It’s with a mixture of pride and sadness that we say farewell to the NPL.  I want to say a huge ’Thank You’ to the team there and I’m immensely grateful to each and every one of them for all the work that they have put in to make NPL the outstanding success it is today.  They have provided a fantastic service to the UK economy since we started 19 years ago.  The innovation and hard work of all the staff have ensured that NPL is seen as the world leader in many fields of expertise.

”I’m also immensely proud of Serco’s track record in managing and operating a key UK asset. NPL is quite rightly recognised as one of the top three NMIs in the world, despite having a limited budget compared with many others.  During our tenure we have successfully introduced a more commercial approach that has seen a 200% increase in non-contract income and a 50% reduction in overhead costs.  This has all been achieved while maintaining the scientific reputation of the Laboratory with peer review papers more than doubling. We leave the NPL in a very healthy state"


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