National Measurement System

A guide to research programmes and other services funded by the National Measurement System and how you can contribute to them.


The National Measurement System (NMS) provides the UK with an infrastructure of laboratories that deliver world-class measurement science and technology and provide traceable and increasingly accurate standards of measurement.

The NMS is delivered through the National Measurement Office (NMO) an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). There are 9 programmes which are delivered by 5 National Measurement Institutes (NMIs):

NMS science programmes

This diagram shows the governance structure and the percentage of investment in each programme across the NMS portfolio.

Diagram of the governance of NMS and percentage of investment across the programmes
Diagram showing the governance of the NMS and percentage of investment across the programmes

Knowledge base programmes

Each knowledge base programme provides core support for the development and maintenance of the International systems of Units (SI) system, including re-definition of the SI units. Their ongoing research deals with national challenges facing the UK, such as Growth, Energy, Health, Digital and Sustainability.

Longer-term research programmes

The strategic capability programme establishes new metrology capabilities in areas such as Graphene and supports major development of existing science areas for future UK measurement needs.

The innovation research and development programme covers multi-disciplinary, emerging and disruptive technology challenges with a mid to long term view.

Knowledge exchange programme

The knowledge exchange programme combines the former international and pan-programme knowledge transfer programmes. This new programme works to increase the impact of the science outputs across the NMS by ensuring that they are shared effectively with stakeholders and to enable both strategic leadership and influence in the international metrology arena to the benefit of the UK.

Statutory and policy obligations

The Government Chemist programme underpins the statutory role of the Government Chemist. It supports LGC Ltd to apply sound analytical science in the public interest, act as the referee in cases of dispute and provide advice to government and industry. Government Chemist website

The legal metrology programme supports manufacturers seeking product certification and assists trading standards officers in their market surveillance and inspection duties.

The NMS publicly funded science programmes are commissioned and contracted by the NMO. Read the latest science programme documents.


The NMS strategy for 2011 to 2015 sets out a framework to deliver leadership in measurement through growth and innovation.


NMS roadmaps The roadmaps provide a snapshot of the direction and scope of the science programmes. Delivered at theme level they show how the technical content of the programmes will deliver solutions to meet specific challenges and drivers for the UK.


BIS through the NMO invests £60m a year in the NMS. The table below provides a breakdown of how the budget is divided each year across the NMS portfolio.

NMS infrastructure 39%
challenge driven research and development 19%
strategic capability 10%
long-term SI 8%
knowledge transfer 7%
statutory and policy obligations 6%
international obligations 6%
management and formulation 5%

Governance of the NMS

The table below shows the roles and responsibilities of the NMS governance.

BIS budget and policy issues
NMO owns strategy and commissions programme content
Measurement board oversee and provide input into strategy and economic case for the NMS
Programme working group strategy, roadmaps and evaluation of programme content
NMO programme board strategy, roadmaps and impact
NMI programme teams capture needs of stakeholder, roadmaps, project proposals and impact

Advisory bodies

NMO advisory bodies represent the beneficiaries of the NMS programmes. Their advice enables NMO to commission and monitor the publicly-funded measurement programmes to deliver optimal impact and benefits to meet industrial and public needs.

Measurement Board

The Measurement Board was established in April 2007 to represent the NMS stakeholders. The members are representatives from across government as well as science, innovation, standards and research. They offer strategic advice on the broader objectives and strategy to enable the government to support the UK metrology infrastructure. Their guidance helps to support innovation in business and industry sectors.

Programme working groups

The NMO runs 6 programme working groups comprising of individuals with an active interest in the development of their area of business or market sector. The group members provide advice on the objectives, priorities and progress of the NMS programmes.

  • innovation research and development programme
  • chemical and biological programme
  • acoustic and ionising radiation programme
  • engineering programme
  • flow programme
  • materials and modelling programme
  • electromagnetics and time programme

How to join a working group

Working groups meet twice a year and focus on the progress and strategic direction of their programme. Appointments to working groups are unpaid, voluntary, and personal. Reasonable travelling and other expenses incurred on working group business are paid in accordance with NMO guidelines. Members have the opportunity to make a real contribution to the work of NMO by helping to steer the government’s £60 million a year investment in the NMS. Members have the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals and develop a network of new contacts in business, industry, science, academia, and government.

If you would like to apply to become a member of one (or more) working groups then please contact:

Anna Jenkins
National Measurement Office
Stanton Avenue
TW11 0JZ

Products and services

The NMS shares measurement knowledge and information through research, events, case studies, networks, training, newsletters, advice and guides available to the wider measurement community.

Find out more about the products and services offered by the NMIs:

Case studies

Here are some case studies on how measurement impacts on our economy and environment.

Measurement helps fight against cancer

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Novel 3D imaging to improve type 1 diabetes treatment

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Erosive flow test facility

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Economic impact

The NMO is working with partner organisations to capitalise on our research for the benefit of our economy and society in the UK. We have commissioned two studies on the economic impact of the NMS. Read the economic impact reports.

EU metrology programmes

European Association of National Metrology Institutes (EURAMET) is jointly funded by the EU and the 22 participating countries. The UK NMIs are involved in European Metrology Programme for Innovation and Research (EMPIR) collaborative projects across energy, industry, environment, health, new technologies and the SI units. They are among the most respected in Europe, providing leadership, facilities and expertise to help drive forward innovative measurement research across Europe.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

See links below for more information.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK supports UK business in accessing European research, development and innovation and additionally works with a range of agencies to assist the UK in a broader international context.


If you wish to find out more about the NMS or get in contact with a member of the team please telephone +44 (0)20 8943 7272 or write to the address below:

National Measurement System
Stanton Avenue
TW11 0JZ