EURAMET’s Integrative Research Programme Celebrates 10 years of Measurement Science Excellence

 

After a decade-long period of ground-breaking achievements in measurement science, EURAMET’s European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) concludes this year.

 

Launched in 2008 under Article 169 of the European Treaty, the EMRP provided a structured and organised route to pool together the research capabilities of metrology institutes, industrial organisations, and academia across Europe. The programme inspired a collaborative spirit and highlighted the value of Joint Research Projects (JRPs) in developing cutting-edge metrology tools for solving grand societal and industrial challenges.

Overall, 23 participating member states – in addition to the European Union (EU) – funded a total of 119 projects in well-defined research areas: industry, energy, environment, health, new technologies and SI units. The EMRP also supported 3 types of researcher grants, for a total of 306 participants. As it comes to a close, we look back over the past 10 years of outstanding accomplishments made under EURAMET’s integrative research programme.

 

EURAMET’s research programmes

 

Before the EMRP, EURAMET’s iMERA and iMERA-plus projects provided the European metrology community with a means to plan and understand the potential for joint research. Preceding the EMRP, these projects were instrumental in defining the common research areas across European metrology institutes and piloting the first joint research call.

Over the lifetime of the EMRP, 5 calls for themed projects were published; starting with the first Energy Call in 2009 and ending in 2013 with the final Energy & Environment Calls. The last few projects were completed in 2017, and since then the project work, funding, and administrative tasks have been rounded-off – with the programme now fully complete. 

To take over from the EMRP, EURAMET launched the European Metrology Programme for Innovation and Research (EMPIR) in 2014 with an emphasis on innovation and capacity building. The EMRP and EMPIR have co-existed for 3 years, both following EURAMET’s wider objectives to enhance the capabilities and impact of joint research initiatives.

EMPIR work is ongoing, with the final projects under that programme set to end in 2024.

 

Looking back on the EMRP objectives

 

The EMRP was launched with a list of specific, general and operational objectives. The EMRP Impact Report shows how the general objectives – set up in line with its funding bodies, the EU’s Framework Programme 7, and the Lisbon Strategy – were achieved through the complementary creation of the specific and operational objectives, providing a more tangible and concrete means for monitoring effectiveness. Now that the programme is complete, EURAMET is proud to announce that the EMRP delivered against all of its objectives, bringing together metrological resources and knowledge across the continent to help maintain the global competitiveness of the European economy. 

A central objective of the EMRP was to contribute to the creation of the European Research Area with reduced barriers and sustainable cross-border interaction for shared metrology research. With this, EURAMET envisioned a higher level of scientific, management, and financial integration, ultimately aiming to promote scientific excellence and generate far-reaching socioeconomic impact. This was achieved by providing a structured approach to formal European collaboration, rather than predominantly relying on cooperation based on goodwill and individual relationships, as had been done in preceding EURAMET projects.

Overall, 23 member states participated in the EMRP and a further 21 countries were involved as unfunded project partners. With backing from the EU, national metrology institutes raised a total of 423 million Euros to fund EMRP activities.

From the programme’s outset, an EMRP Committee was established for centralised governance of the activities, where each participating state had a representative and voting power related to their financial contribution. In addition, a professional Programme Manager was appointed and a dedicated Management Support Unit (MSU) recruited. Through this careful organisation, encouragement to share research facilities, and initiatives to increase networking, the EMRP has been integral in sparking coordination between traditional metrology institutes – such as National Metrology Institutes (NMIs) & Designated Institutes (DIs) – and academic and industrial communities. This has amounted to 50% of all participants in EMRP projects coming from universities & public research organisations and 41% from industry; clearly demonstrating the integrative nature of the programme.

 

How was the EMRP structured?

 

Research topics were chosen for EMPR projects via the call process, which in itself led to a good deal of integration among national metrology programmes.

The EMRP Committee held a key role, beginning with defining the programme’s call scopes in line with societal or industrial needs that would be best addressed collaboratively. Stakeholders and external experts were also invited to contribute to this process. Critically, the Committee helped to bring in a strategic view of national capabilities, stakeholder needs, and indicative budgets by theme.

The EMRP calls came in 3 main stages, and eventually led to the execution of several joint research projects over the course of the programme, as per the diagram below.

 

A summary of the EMRP’s themed projects

 

The topics of the EMRP’s joint research projects were selected via the call process outlined above, covering the general themes of: energy, industry, environment, health, new technologies and SI units. As well as achieving a high level of coordination among national metrology programmes, these projects made significant strides forward in supporting European innovation. 

Health: Measurement techniques are crucial to support continued innovation in the diagnosis and treatment of serious health conditions. EMRP health projects focused on developing measurement tools for technologically advanced screening and personalised treatment plans, and the enforcement of healthcare-related regulations such as the medical device directive.  

11 projects were established in the health theme covering two key areas; metrology for quantitative disease diagnosis and metrology for safe & effective therapies. These projects developed traceable methods to address healthcare needs - from quantifying systems of infectious agents like tuberculosis, to supporting manufacturing of accurate in-vitro diagnostic devices and verifying the safety of new high-strength MRI scanners. Read more >>


Environment: Alongside ensuring the health of its citizens, achieving sustainable growth whilst protecting the environment is another of Europe’s key challenges. Worldwide agencies and climate scientists alike rely on reliable data to enforce environmental treaties and understand anthropogenic impacts.

9 projects were established for environmental metrology research aimed at increasing our understanding of climate change and ensuring a safe and clean environment. EMRP research has helped improve air quality by validating aerosols for car engines and calibrating nitrogen dioxide emissions, and by providing the means to demonstrate compliance with air quality regulations. Projects under this theme also worked to traceably measure several other environmental parameters, including water pollutant levels and ocean circulation. Read more >>


Energy: Europe’s sustainable energy goals are geared towards an increased use of renewable energy sources and low carbon technologies, as well as the modernisation of existing electricity infrastructure.

The EMRP supported a total of 9 projects in the energy theme that established new measurement methods to meet these goals. The projects resulted in the development of measurement infrastructure to support the fair trade and distribution of biogas, liquid biofuels, and liquified natural gas. EMRP research also focused on advancing energy harvesting technologies and energy efficient lighting, as well as extending the measurement capabilities of existing power plants and electricity grids. Read more >>


Industry: Measurement infrastructure is essential for ensuring that European manufacturers remain globally competitive with the continued production of high-quality products. Industries require robust measurement methods for quality assurance, efficient process control, and to validate the performance of new and innovative products.

17 industry projects were established under the EMRP aimed at supporting advanced manufacturing, Information and Communication Technology (ICT),and electronics. EMRP projects developed improved analytical instrumentation to assess the performance of new materials in a range of sectors, from electronics to medical devices. EMRP research has also helped to validate ultrafast electronics in the ICT industry, commercially deploy quantum communication technologies, and support the development of high-pressure equipment for industrial processes. Read more >>


New Technologies: To achieve economic growth in the new technologies market, the EU has identified the need for targeted research into micro- and nanoelectronics, nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, advanced materials, photonics, and advanced manufacturing technologies. Reliable measurement and verification of material properties and performance are required to advance new technologies, and EMRP projects have worked to provide just this.      

9 projects were established to support new technologies. Research under the programme developed new techniques for nanoscale chemical analyses and mechanical testing - essential for advancing microelectronics. The projects also standardised nanoscale strength testing, improved measurement and validation software, and provided methods for testing the safety of terahertz security scanning at airports. Read more >>


SI Units: Product development and global trade rely on accurate measurements that are traceable to international standards. In 2018, the General Conference on Weights and Measures redefined the International System of Units (SI) which underpins all measurements around the world. The redefinition aims to reduce uncertainties at the highest level and ensure that the SI system can continue to meet the needs of science and technology in the 21st century.    

22 SI Broader Scope themed projects were successfully completed under the EMRP that addressed these challenges and support research for the SI redefinition. Two key areas were focused on: implementation of the revised SI, and the development of advanced techniques for providing measurement traceability. EMRP research worked on a direct thermodynamic measurement for the Kelvin, a travelling standard for ampere generation, new fibre optic links for a future time standard governed by optical clocks, and much more. Read more >>

Delivering scientific, economic and social impact to Europe

 

Measurement standards are required all around the world to support the economy and society. Global metrology systems ensure that primary measurement standards and the measurements they enable are comparable and internationally agreed upon. The EMRP has increased the level of coordinated measurement science research across Europe which will continue adding to these high standards of metrology; reducing duplication and fragmentation of research, contributing to improved project outputs, and developing new standards that are traceable to the fundamental system of units.

Pooling together research expertise and coordinating alignment of research timescales has resulted in outstanding scientific impact under the programme. A particularly noteworthy example is Europe’s role in the historical SI redefinition, which became a reality in May 2019 after decades of hard work. Other remarkable achievements were also made over the course of the programme, including the innovation of new flow and temperature instrumentation to improve power plant efficiency, the development of practical reference standards to improve roadside emissions monitoring, and the validation of molecular methods to quantify infectious diseases. The EMRP’s researcher grants were another effective aspect, supporting formal collaboration between research groups and encouraging the advancement of less well-developed metrology institutes - such as the NMIs in Bosnia and the Czech Republic. Overall, EMRP researchers have published over a thousand papers in peer-reviewed journals, with the impact factor, number of citations, and level of international co-authorship rising substantially over the lifetime of the programme as well.

EURAMET has also published more than a hundred case studies demonstrating the social and economic impact of the programme. Accurate, traceable measurements underpin the entirety of trade across the world and form a reliable basis for innovation. Surveys of industrial participants have demonstrated how EMRP research has led to the sales of several innovative products, boosted the economy, and added to its competitive advantages. EMRP projects concerned with the environment, energy and health sectors have helped to solve important questions around European regulation issues; including water and air quality, safety of healthcare, and radiation protection. In fact, 42 of the 119 projects supported EU regulation, resulting in far-reaching societal impact.

The EMRP has helped to make Europe more prosperous and sustainable, meeting a variety of societal and industrial needs. Now, in 2019, EURAMET proudly announces the finalisation of this decade-long, integrative programme which has responded effectively and efficiently to growing demands for metrology as a tool for innovation, research, and evidence-based policy.