Science and international development

Written evidence submitted by the
National Physical Laboratory (NPL) (Int Dev 04)

1. Summary of key points


The UK is in a good position to exploit the strength of its Standards, Quality, Accreditation and Metrology sector not only to the benefit of Developing Countries but also to promote future growth in the UK economy.

2. About NPL


3. How does the UK Government support scientific capacity building in developing countries and how should it improve?

3.1 Introduction

The World Trade Organisation recognises that one of the first technical capacities required by a Developing Country is the capacity for international trade. This requires a capability for Standards, Quality, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM).

· Standards provide for the specification of products for trade

· Quality assures that products are fit for purpose

· Accreditation assures conformity to standards

· Metrology generally underpins the measurements necessary to show compliance with standards, legal aspects and specifications.

And all these generally depend upon the underpinning scientific capacity of the Developing Country.

A few years ago NPL took part in a workshop on Capacity Building in the SQAM Sector. A keynote address was given by Dr Laith Goonatilake, Senior Industrial Development Officer, Quality, Technology and Investment Branch of UNIDO. (He is now Director of UNIDO’s Trade Capacity Building Branch.) I include below an extract from his keynote address where the links to SQAM have been highlighted:

Developing countries have commodities but not products. The Technical Barriers to Trade agreement mentions assistance to Developing Countries, but in reality Developing Countries have not applied for assistance, nor have developed countries offered it. Developing Countries cannot take immediate advantage of opportunities. This gives rise to the following requirements:

· There is a need for technical assistance to market access through:

o Institution building for trade policy where proof of conformity with market requirements is necessary, e.g. in Uganda – fish pesticide measurement, Sri Lanka – pesticide residues in fabrics.

o Export promotion

o Strengthening Trade Facilitation capabilities

§ Investment, Facilitation and Financial Flows (through UNCTAD)

§ International Agreements and Rules for Trade (through WTO)

o Training and Human Resource Development

o Creation of trade-related regulation/policy framework

o All these factors would depend upon Supply and Development (Capacity and Competitiveness), Standards and Conformity Assessment Infrastructure (TBT, SPS), Customs Procedures, Transport and Documentation.

· For technical assistance there is a need to develop strategies for:

o Competitive Manufacturing Capacity

o Providing Conformity with Market Requirements

o Connecting to the Market

o Funding technical assistance

o To link supply capacity and conformity.

At the same workshop DFID stated: Trade is of vital importance to developing countries – a one percentage increase in Africa’s share of world exports is equivalent to around five times the amount provided to the region through aid and debt relief.

Evidence of the importance of SQAM to Developing Countries can be found at:; which sets out the priority given to SQAM by the South African Developing Community (SADC).

3.2 Current Government Support

The UK has a particularly strong SQAM sector and this provides a valuable resource for development assistance. The UK SQAM sector is embedded in various national institutions, and in some cases parts of government, including: National Measurement Office, National Physical Laboratory, British Standards Institute, United Kingdom Accreditation Service, Trading Standards Institute.

These organisations are often approached by Developing Countries and by agencies funding their development, and some training is provided where budgets allow. However, DFID have not to-date to our knowledge directly supported any overseas development work by the UK SQAM sector.

3.3 Opportunities for Improvement

The SQAM sectors of some other countries in Europe, for example France and Germany are funded by their governments to support the development of SQAM sectors in Developing Countries. For example PTB, the German equivalent to the UK NMO and NPL, has jointly undertaken projects with UNIDO and the International Organisation of Legal Metrology in West Africa providing training and planning workshops, and the German Government also provides funding for PTB experts to go to the region.

We give below a summary of the PTB International Technical Cooperation Programme as described by SADC.

Delegates were informed about the PTB’s organis ational structure, funding, its role as the National Metrology Institute and in the worldwide securing of correct measures and measurements and PTB’s role in international technical cooperation. Over a period of four decades, more than 70 countries have been assisted with more than 130 million Euros in setting up metrology standardization, testing and quality (MSTQ) infrastructures.

To achieve this, PTB has cooperated with many specialist institutions and organizations in and outside German y . The main German partners have been the Federal Institute for Material Research and Testing (BAM), German Institute for standardization (DIN), German Calibration Service (DKD), Society for Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Information Technology (VDE) to name a few.

Outside German y , PTB has cooperated with international organizations such as BIPM, ILAC, ISO, OIML, UNIDO and WTO and with national institutions such as INMETRO (Brazil), KEBS (Kenya), NIST (United States of America) and SABS (South Africa). Although PTB projects initially focused on the establishment of metrology institutions, the focus being demand driven has shifted over the years towards the establishment of regional metrology, standardization, testing and quality (MSTQ) structures in order to enable developing countries to effectively implement regional trade agreements and to create regional markets.

Projects are currently being implemented in Africa, Central/South America, Asia and the ex-Soviet Union countries. Adequate technical infrastructures in developing countries are key for competitive production, conformity assessment procedures and in implementing trade agreements hence PTB’s

focus and preparedness to continue its technical cooperation in this regard.

As well as providing important benefits for the Developing Countries, enabling them to export more goods, it also brings benefits to the donor countries. NPL staff often visit the emerging SQAM organisations in Developing Countries and are struck by the large amount of for example German manufactured equipment in their national laboratories. These national laboratories are providing leadership for their countries, and it is reasonable to expect that emerging technical businesses in these countries are likely to follow the purchasing choices of their national laboratories.

As important will be the relationships that are developed through the training given; such relationships are key to the future development of a strong trading partnership with Developing Countries.

The UK is in a good position to exploit the strength of its SQAM sector not only to the benefit of Developing Countries but also to promote future growth in the UK economy.

National Physical Laboratory

13 December 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011