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“Providing a national measurement infrastructure in Germany to industry, society and science that is internationally of the very highest order.” This has been PTB’s central aspiration for 130 years—and one examined closely by the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities, WR) when it visited PTB from 12-14 October 2016 on behalf of the BMWi (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy). The commission of the Wissenschaftsrat was impressed by the high degree of motivation that PTB’s staff members demonstrated, by the outstanding preparations that took place prior to its visit, and by PTB’s achievements, as reflected in key performance indicators. In all relevant areas, PTB has improved markedly since the commission’s first visit in 2007.

In the closing dialogue, the commission highlighted PTB’s major dedication to mastering future metrological challenges—a dedication that, in most cases, is based on third-party funding. It also confirmed that PTB is already very well-positioned in the fields of metrology for the “Energiewende” (energy transition), metrology for biochemistry and biomedicine, and quantum-reinforced metrology. In all of these fields, but first and foremost in metrology for digitization, the commission noted the urgent need to strengthen PTB’s role enormously, not least by allocating a greater number of permanent positions.

The digital competence of PTB can function well only if its “internal digitization” is highly developed and coordinated with that of the “outside world”. This puts PTB in a special position: its complex business processes entail a close interweaving of administration and service, and it must assume the special tasks required of an institution with a high emphasis on research. For this reason, the decision made by the German federal government to centralize standard IT services within the framework of the eGovernment Act, even though such a decision is welcome per se, does not generally apply to PTB. PTB has published a paper on this issue and is currently engaged in dialogue with the goal of convincingly arguing that a general consolidation of IT processes at PTB would pose a substantial threat to its working capacity.

One important objective formulated in the strategy meeting held at the beginning of the year was to further develop internal mechanisms that will allow PTB to address new issues as efficiently as possible on its own, and to plan the resultant changes together with staff members.

The central issue at the 2016 meeting of the Kuratorium (Advisory Board) was the master plan for the long-term upgrading of PTB’s buildings and grounds, primarily in Braunschweig. This highly detailed, well thought-out plan, which was coordinated with all of PTB’s departments, was met by unbridled support first from the Kuratorium, then from the BMWi, the BMUB and the WR commission. The plan, which is set to last until at least 2030 and which has a total budget of around 330 million euros, was completely incorporated into the direct budgeting. Currently, the positions at PTB that are concerned with technical infrastructure are pursuing intense collaboration with their partners at Staatliches Baumanagement (state construction management) and at the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBR) in order to implement initial projects such as the Competence Center for Wind Energy (CCW).

This year, PTB’s most important resource—its highly competent and motivated staff—was once again the focus of numerous advanced training sessions and other offers for employees (those both with and without leadership responsibilities). For example, our “Guidelines for Leadership and Cooperation” were revised with the express goal of further strengthening our employees’ ability to work autonomously, and reinforcing the principles of trust and mutual appreciation and awareness. In addition to seminars for specific target groups, new, collegial advisory groups were formed in 2016 to promote networking across departments and the exchange of ideas. Other milestones set this year included “Managers’ Day”, which was attended by 150 participants, the second “PTB Forum: Talk with the Presidential Board”, which served as a direct exchange between the Presidential Board and employees, and a questionnaire on psychological stress in the workplace. This means that the further development of PTB’s leadership culture and cooperation is headed in the right direction. In order to create a central contact and advice point for all questions about coordinating family and career, the Family Service Office (FamilienServiceBüro) was created. Furthermore, PTB is a partner in the national “Go MINT” pact (“Komm, mach MINT”), the goal of which is to support women in scientific and technical careers. Finally, under the slogan of “MetroSommer (MetroSummer) 2016—experience the most accurate summer of your life!”, a summer research internship in PTB’s laboratories was offered for the first time. For more than two months, 14 university students conducted research in selected PTB projects. Due to the consistently positive feedback received from all participants, the internship will be offered again in 2017.

Over the past year, several elements of the revised Measures and Verification Act were again refined to be more precise. Since the revised act entered into force two years ago, its stakeholders have gathered experience and adapted well to the new requirements. The conformity assessment and the requirements for measuring instruments in accordance with Annex 2 of the Measures and Verification Ordinance represent a high level of protection, particularly for measuring instruments used for official transactions. Speedometers are one example of instruments for which PTB is frequently asked to provide statements, due to its many years of unique technical competence. In the future, PTB may also take on a significantly more prominent role in monitoring vehicle emission levels in order to help customers regain their lost confidence. The Rule Determination Committee set up at PTB has demonstrated its effectiveness, making important contributions to the new system of metrology and verification—such as bringing together parties both within and from outside PTB for whom the future domain of e-mobility is relevant. Furthermore, PTB has taken all steps necessary for decisions concerning the Measures and Verification Act in 2017.

One highlight of the past year, and an unqualified success, was undoubtedly the General Assembly on Metrology and Verification in its new role: here, in addition to the new legal guidelines, the revision of the OIML certification system was an important issue. Following the 2013 resolution of the OIML General Conference (CIML) to revise the OIML certification system, the framework document OIML B 18 was created for this purpose under the direction of the Vice-President of PTB and of OIML, Roman Schwartz; this framework document was adopted at the October 2016 meeting of CIML. In the General Assembly as well, the topic of digitization was met with resounding interest from all participants. In in-depth discussions, verification authorities, interested parties and industrial firms all encouraged PTB in its efforts to adopt the role of a competent facilitator for all parties with a stake in this topic.

The successful launch of the “TransMet” technology transfer program in 2015 continued this past year in different projects, with the field of optical technologies emerging as a focus area. This program, together with PTB’s activity in regulation and standardization, represents an important contribution to technology transfer by PTB. With 50 patent applications filed between 2013 and 2015, and with a rigorous system of technology assessment in place, PTB’s patenting strategy has shown itself to be highly effective; this point was given special emphasis by the WR commission in its closing dialogue.

One major event that will provide—in a positive sense—a taste of things to come in research-intensive fields is the 2018 revision of the International System of Units (SI), the lingua franca of international trade and science. The decisive course for this revision was set in a groundbreaking meeting of the Consultative Committee for Units (CCU) under the leadership of PTB. As an example, by 1 July 2017, measurement values for the “defining constants”, such as Planck’s constant, the Avogadro constant and the Boltzmann constant, will have to be submitted and accepted for publication in order to officially contribute to the establishment of these constants’ final numerical values. In this area, PTB achieved the following outstanding results over the past year on the basis of close internal collaboration and strong international cooperation projects:

  • An independent, highly precise determination of the Boltzmann constant was realized by means of dielectric-constant gas thermometry (DCGT) with a relative uncertainty of only 1.9 ppm. This paves the way for the redefinition of the kelvin by establishing the Boltzmann constant.
  • For the redefinition of the kilogram, the international Avogadro project is also well on the way to crossing the finish line in realizing the smallest uncertainty anywhere in the world in order to specify the Avogadro constant and Planck’s constant. This specification takes place by means of metrological characterization of single-crystal spheres made of high-purity silicon. Here, a Helmholtz Symposium and an international workshop demonstrated the international interest in using silicon spheres as long-lasting and relatively easy-to-handle realizations of the unit of mass, following the revision.
  • In 2016, it was successfully demonstrated that a measurement uncertainty of 0.16 μA/A can be obtained even with only one single-electron current source and without error correction. This allows the quantum ampere to be realized with greater precision than the conventional ampere in the current SI. Thanks to additional technological and experimental advances, the most important building blocks for a self-referenced quantum current source are now available.

At a national level, universities are growing in importance as partners of PTB alongside other research institutions. For example, in the past year, two joint professorial appointments with the Technische Universität Braunschweig (TUBS) took place. In the field of quantum technology, the many years of close collaboration with Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) continued, such as within the scope of the new “DQ-Mat” special research area, fundraising for which was led by PTB. A strategic and structural tripartite partnership—unique in Germany—between the two universities and PTB, uniting quantum metrology (LUH), nanometrology (TUBS) and the national metrology institute (PTB), has received excellent assessments. The partnership will now enjoy the extensive financial support of the state of Lower Saxony (Land Niedersachsen) for a period of five years within the scope of its so-called “master plan”. Building on this, the preliminary application for a joint excellence cluster called “QuantumFrontiers” (with a total budget of 57 million euros) has just been completed.

Over the past year, PTB’s Berlin institute systematically expanded its own multifaceted collaboration with the Technische Universität Berlin via a joint training program for doctoral students in the field of quantitative imaging, and via additional joint doctoral dissertations in fields such as information technology and synchrotron radiation. Here, the BIOQIC research training group, which is financed by the DFG and jointly pursued by Charité, TU Berlin, FU Berlin and PTB (its Deputy Chair), is set to facilitate an interdisciplinary training program. PTB is strategically positioning itself in the high-growth sector of digitization by jointly appointing professorships on “trustworthy system architectures” and “machine-based learning” within the scope of the new Einstein Center. The Center was approved by a task-force group with representatives from science, economics and politics; it forms a network of 30 new professorships and is part of the 10-point agenda for establishing Berlin as Germany’s IT capital.

On a European level, now that the successful European metrology research program EMPIR has reached its halfway point, the focus is being increasingly trained on ensuring that the successes already achieved are sustained over the long term. Options include an even closer collaboration and coordination between the European partners, and (as PTB has already proposed) setting up a special infrastructure program to be supported by the European Union that will ensure the continued availability of metrological services that either have emerged as part of EMPIR or are of pan-European interest.

On a global level, PTB is expanding its contribution to international harmonization, supported by the German government’s focus on development policy. Within the scope of a strategic partnership, PTB now also supports the World Bank by sending one of its staff members to Washington on an intermittent basis. During my travels abroad over the past year, among them my attendance at the General Assembly of SIM (the Regional Metrology Organization for the Americas), I once again had the opportunity to experience for myself the high regard in which PTB is held throughout the world, thanks to the high degree of competence and the great dedication of its employees in all of their fields.

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all staff members of PTB: Thank you for your great commitment, for your dedication to metrology and for the unwavering dependability of your work, which fulfills the very highest of metrological aspirations. I would also like to express my special appreciation for the diverse sources of support on all levels during the preparation for and implementation of the evaluation commission’s visit. Without the contributions of each and every one of you, from infrastructure and administration to service and research, the results we achieved this year, which were once again outstanding, would not have been possible. We can thus look ahead to the