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The European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP)

Metrology – the science of correct measurement – is an essential cornerstone of our industrialized society which is based on the division of labour. Metrology has an impact on practically every aspect of our lives, and metrological progress is a trailblazer for technical development and, thus, for innovation. Also, metrological progress ensures that Europe cannot only survive on the competitive international market, but that it can even take on a leading position in this competition. Given the prevailing economic and social challenges we are faced with, the role and the further development of metrology is of extraordinary strategic importance for Europe. This is also reflected in the fact that a coordinated European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) was launched with the support of the European Union – first within the scope of the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, subsequently as a measure under  Article 185 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, as the National Metrology Institute of Germany, has joined together with institutes from 23 European partner countries to form the "European Metrology Research Programme" (EMRP) under the auspices of EURAMET (European Association of National Metrology Institutes). The metrological institutes acting under this umbrella contribute jointly, through cross-border research and development, to solving the great challenges we are currently faced with – for example, efficient energy and resource management and climate change. The European Metrology Research Programme has a term of seven years and a budget of 400 million euros – half of which is contributed by the participating countries themselves, the other half by the EU. Every year, decisions on new research projects are made which are based on the vote of an international group of experts. The preceding programme, iMERA-Plus (abbreviation of: "implementing Metrology in the European Research Area"), which ran between 2007 and 2011, already had a funding volume of 64.6 million Euros. With this strategy of conducting joint research, fields of interest that are particularly relevant for Europe can be investigated in a subject-specific way. This kind of research contributes significantly to overcoming the fragmentation of the funding within the European research landscape and to exploiting synergies.

Each research project has a term of three years. The contents of the projects are chosen according to Targeted Programmes (TPs), so that the research is conducted in a focused way and considerable progress is attained. On the basis of annual programme calls, the projects to be funded are determined for individual subjects. All projects are realized in close cooperation with the interested parties, among others from industry, from associations, and from organizations and institutions that are relevant for the fields of the environment or health. The network of partners from the participating member states makes it possible to provide the critical mass which is necessary to achieve, within the scope of excellent research, comprehensive progress in innovations.

PTB is participating in almost all projects in the different Targeted Programmes and is leading several comprehensive work packages or even coordinating whole projects. The following survey gives an overview of the various activities of PTB.


Overview of the Targeted Programmes

iMERA-Plus(final report)
2007SI and Fundamental
Health I
Electricity and Magnetism


2009Energy I
2010Industry I
Environment I
2011Health II
New Technologies
SI Broader Scope I
2012Industry II
SI Broader Scope II
Open Excellence
2013Energy II
Environment II



Call 2007

   SI and Fundamental

When about 200 years ago, within the spirit of the ideal of equality of the French Revolution, "uniform measures" were to be introduced under the motto "à tous les temps, à tous les peuples" ("to all men and all times"), such measures were chosen which, at that time, were deemed to be the most stable ones: a certain fraction of the circumference of the Earth, i.e. a quadrant of it for the measure of length, and a volume derived from this measure of a widespread substance – water – for the measure of mass. To ensure the durability of these measures, they were materialized in a platinum alloy – believing that with these measures, which surpassed all the previous systems that were based on everyday life, a universal and perpetual system of units had been established.
Such a system of units, however, has to be continuously maintained and advanced, in order to meet the growing requirements from industry and society in the long run and to provide the metrological basis which is necessary for technological progress. At the moment, the activities consist in developing new standards for the measurement of mass, electric current, temperature, light and time. If the values of fundamental constants such as, e.g., the Boltzmann constant or Planck's constant are known with sufficient accuracy, they are suited as a basis for the re-definition of measurement units in the International System of Units (SI) – thereby enabling a new accuracy class. Within the scope of the Targeted Programme "SI Units and Fundamental Constants", six projects have been dedicated to these topics:


  Health I

"Health" is one of the central topics of society. The challenges of this topic have to be tackled to maintain and improve the quality of life in Europe. The six funded projects deal with new procedures for the early diagnosis of diseases, the investigation of biomolecules and biomarkers, as well as with methodical work on clinical chemistry and clinical medicine. The new findings are applied, e.g., to the development of new regenerative treatments and cancer therapy. In addition, procedures for the improved measurements of characteristic parameters of electric fields are being developed in order to improve, in the future, the protection of people from harmful electric fields.



Dimensional metrology is used in the most diverse fields. It is of considerable importance in environmental issues (e.g. for the description of exhaust gas particles), but also in the manufacture of machines and components as well as in surveying. The requirements placed on the tolerable uncertainties are constantly growing, so that technologies have to be improved or newly developed and put into practice. The diversity of this field of metrology also manifests itself in the four projects that are part of this Targeted Programme. The spectrum reaches from providing the metrological infrastructure necessary for the characterization of nanoparticles (< 100 nm), to the accurate and traceable measurement of complex geometrical structures with dimensions of several metres such as, e.g., aircraft components. Furthermore, new techniques are being developed to enable optical long-range measurements over several 100 m with greater accuracy by taking into account more accurately the influence of temperature and humidity variations in air on the path taken by the light beam of the measuring instrument.


  Electricity and Magnetism

The metrologically validated measurement of electric and magnetic quantities such as, e.g., the ampere, the volt, the ohm or the tesla is the basis of value creation in micro- and nano-electronics, in the safeguarding of the electricity supply and in the protection of the population from exposure to harmful electromagnetic radiation. The programme "Electricity and Magnetism" consists of five research projects aimed at developing electrical metrology which contributes to meeting these economic and social challenges in Europe:


EMRP based upon paragraph 185


Call 2009

    Energy I

For a sustainable, resource-saving and environmentally compatible energy supply in Europe, technologies are needed in the medium to long term which, at no point of the energy supply chain, cause serious damage to the environment. In particular, technologies that cause no or little release of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane are needed.

In the area "Energy", the focus lies on metrological research which, on the one hand, creates the preconditions for establishing, developing and safeguarding a sustainable energy system and, on the other hand, promotes the competitiveness of European industrial enterprises. Various research activities needed for this area were conducted in nine research projects which were funded by the EU to the amount of approx. 14 million Euros. These projects covered the whole energy supply chain and range from the exploitation of the potential of conventional energy sources and the investigation of new energy sources to the conversion, transport and storage of energy and to technologies enabling a further reduction of energy consumption. PTB participated in all of these projects and is coordinating two of them. All projects finished in 2013.


Call 2010

    Industry I

In the "Industry" programme, the focus lies on the development of metrological methods and technologies dedicated to improving the metrological infrastructure in the various industrial sectors. The project results will contribute to maintaining and expanding the international competitiveness of European industry. The activities conducted within the scope of these projects are laying the metrological foundations for innovations and new applications in key technologies such as, e.g., sensor systems, communications and new material properties. In the Targeted Programme "Industry", seventeen projects are being carried out, with a total EU funding volume of 22 million Euros. PTB's strong commitment to this programme manifests itself in the high funding volume of 36 % and also in the fact that PTB is not merely participating in all these projects, but that it is also acting as a coordinator in eight of them.


  Environment I

The aim of the Targeted Programme "Environment" is to improve the data base for political decision-making processes, to elaborate new directives and to monitor compliance with directives relating to the environment. The intention is to create a metrological infrastructure that supports both national and international research initiatives and policy-making in environmental issues. The projects are, on the one hand, aimed at local environmental aspects such as water purity and car exhaust gases. On the other hand, they include topics of a more global nature which are aimed at better comprehending the processes of climate change and at reducing the impacts. In the Targeted Programme "Environment", nine joint projects are being funded; PTB is actively taking part in all of them. PTB's funding volume amounts to 30 %. The EU is supporting the projects with a total amount of 17 million Euros. PTB is acting as a coordinator in three of these projects.



Call 2011

    Health II

In the Targeted Programme "Health" – which is funded by the EU with an amount of 13.3 million Euros – the research activities in each of the 11 funded projects focus on providing a metrological infrastructure that enables the improvement of the quality of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures such as therapeutic ultrasound, brachytherapy and magnetic resonance tomography as well as the further development of these techniques in order to extend their range of application. Furthermore, in various projects, new technologies are being developed that aim to improve healthcare and the protection of patients. A series of projects will deal with the broad topic of biomarkers – how to detect and how to characterize them. In this way, metrology will contribute to reducing healthcare costs and to promoting the competitiveness of European industry and services in this sector. Progress in diagnostics and therapy implies that the reliability and comparability of measurement results are increased. To maintain a consistent base for the assessment of the various physiologically significant properties, it is necessary to not only define the measurands used to characterize the corresponding biological effects, but also to trace them back to appropriate standards. PTB is receiving 38 % of the funding for this topic. Four of the projects are coordinated by PTB. The projects started in summer/autumn 2012.


   New Technologies

This call addresses new and – for the major part – multidisciplinary metrological challenges that have emerged in the fields of nanotechnologies, new materials, safety as well as mathematics, and information and communications technologies (ICT) for metrology.

The fields of nanotechnologies and new materials include the characterization of new functional properties which are associated with nano-structured surfaces and materials, nano-electromechanical systems and nanoparticles. The requirements for metrology encompass the characterization with regard to their geometrical, mechanical, electrical, magnetic, chemical, biological, optical and thermal properties; in this context, it is also necessary to develop technologies that go beyond the limits of conventional optical procedures or of scanning probe microscopy. In the field of "Safety", the focus lies, among other things, on the detection of hazardous substances, on terahertz radiation and chemical analysis.

In the Targeted Programme "New Technologies", nine research projects started in summer/autumn 2012. Three of these are coordinated by PTB. The additional funding volume provided by the EU amounts to 10.2 million Euros. PTB's share amounts to 35 %.


  SI Broader Scope I

The focus of the Targeted Programme "Dissemination of the SI Units", which is funded by the EU to the amount of 13.3 million Euros, lies on the dissemination of the International System of Units (SI) in order to provide the metrological basis which is necessary for the expected progress in fundamental and applied research. For a few years, intense effort has been spent on tracing all base units back to invariable fundamental constants instead of defining them via a chemical-physical material property or via a prototype. Thus, the unit "kelvin", for instance, will soon no longer be based on the triple point of water, but on the Boltzmann constant. For the re-definition of the kilogram – to date defined via the international prototype of the kilogram – two approaches are being pursued: a definition via Planck's constant and another via the Avogadro constant. The imminent re-definitions imply the necessity to disseminate the units correspondingly to the diverse groups of users. It is necessary to transfer the sophisticated realization provided by theory to the practical fields of application, be it an assembly line or a supermarket. The major part of the ten research projects coordinated within the scope of this Targeted Programme therefore includes work on the practical realization of the base units. PTB is coordinating five of the joint projects. Its share in the total budget amounts to 32 %.


Call 2012

  Industry II

The "Industry II" programme is dedicated to developing metrological methods and techniques for industrial applications. Metrological technology at the highest level is to provide the basis for innovation in industrial production and in the development of new products. With this programme, metrology will contribute significantly to maintaining and developing the competitiveness of European industry on the global market. Thus, the efficiency and effectivity of European industry are to be enhanced by means of optimized metrological technologies, supporting thereby the transition from a resource-intensive to a knowledge-based industry. Thanks to close cooperation with partners from industry, it can be ensured that the research results are implemented promptly and that research is oriented towards the needs of the different industrial sectors concerned. PTB participates in ten of the fourteen funded projects and coordinates three JRPs. The budget of the programme amounts to 37 million Euros with a PTB share of 36 %. The projects started between May and July 2013.


  SI Broader Scope II

The aim of the programme "Dissemination of the International Units of Measurement II" is the further development of the International System of Units and the dissemination of the units by means of research and development in the field of fundamental and applied metrology. A total budget of 42 million Euros is used for this purpose with PTB having a share of 31 %. Whilst the first programme is focused on introducing the new definitions of the SI base units and on preparing the practical realization of the base units and of the derived units, the second programme is geared to the needs of the users with regard to the dissemination of the SI units. The goal is, in particular, to develop modern technologies for the traceability of measurement results for the users of metrological services. In addition, the corresponding metrological fields and their individual measurands within the International System of Units are to be advanced by means of targeted research activities in order to harmonize the European metrological landscape. Fourteen projects are funded. PTB is involved in thirteen JRPs and coordinates seven projects. The projects started between May and October 2013.


  Open Excellence

The open Targeted Programme call "Excellence" is intended to provide the framework for excellent research without strategical provisions. The research topics are not necessarily of a metrological nature. Their results are, however, expected to be of potential use for future metrological applications. The programme has a total funding volume of eight million Euros. A stronger involvement of expert knowledge from outside metrology institutes is a particular characteristic of this targeted programme. Four projects are funded with PTB coordinating two of them. The total budget of the programme amounts to 7.7 million Euro with a PTB share of 38 %. The projects started between June and July 2013.


Call 2013

  Energy II

The Targeted Programme call "Energy II" focuses on metrological research which supports steps towards a safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy system while increasing the competitiveness of Europe's industries. It is open to metrological research topics related to all sources of energy, traditional as well as novel types of sources and technologies with longer-term potential. The whole energy chain comprising generation, conversion, transport, storage and consumption of energy is included. The total budget of the programme amounts to 43.2 million Euro with PTB having a share of 25 %. PTB will be involved in twelve of the thirteen funded projects and will coordinate two of the research projects. The projects will start in summer 2014.


   Environment II

The Targeted Programme "Environment II" aims at further metrological research to improve the quality of data for policy making and regulation, underpin other environmental research initiatives through collaborative metrological research and development and stimulate technological innovation. The programme has a total budget of 38.8 million Euro with a PTB share of 21 %. A total of ten projects will be funded. PTB is involved in all projects and will coordinate one of the JRPs. The projects will start in summer 2014.