NPL to lead National Timing Centre to protect UK from risk of satellite failure

The UK’s emergency service responders and other critical services could be set for more resilient time systems through the world’s first National Timing Centre programme announced by the new Science Minister Amanda Solloway MP on 19 February 2020.
This £76 million investment furthers the government’s commitment to significantly boost R&D investment across every part of the UK, including funding transformational technologies and increasing the number of researchers.
Led by AIRTO member NPL, the National Timing Centre programme is paving the way for trusted and assured time and frequency across the UK. NPL is the home of UK time, from here accurate timing is supplied to key locations, such as the financial hub in London. Funded by UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund, the National Timing Centre (NTC) programme is working to develop an infrastructure of secure locations across the UK, providing a basis for resilient time distribution across the country.

The development of the programme presents a clear opportunity for the UK to advance security and resilience of the national time and frequency infrastructure, whilst supporting the development of skills. Clearly defined, resilient time and frequency, will also help to enable trust, promoting the acceleration and uptake of new technologies such as smart grids, 5G, smart cities and connected autonomous vehicles, as well as factories of the future. In conjunction with Innovate UK, the programme will support UK companies to develop new products and services to meet these new needs, based on a successful NPL and Innovate UK partnership model.

It will help to bring structure to our data frameworks – providing access to secure time to help track data transfer accurately. This will also help ensure compliance with standards. For instance, with technological advancements in financial trading we rely more heavily on our ability to identify exactly when a transaction took place, bringing clarity to the market.

Dr Pete Thompson FREng, CEO, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) commented, “At NPL we are proud to be leading the way in providing trusted and assured time and frequency. The work undertaken by the team has ensured that the National Timing Centre programme will provide huge benefits to society, whilst underpinning secure applications in the future.”

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive, UK Research and Innovation states: “Our emergency services, energy network and economy rely on the precise time source that global satellite navigation systems provide. The failure of these systems has been identified as a major risk, and The National Timing Centre programme will help to protect both vital services and the economy from the disruption this would cause while delivering considerable economic benefits.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Our economy relies on satellites for accurate timing. Without satellites sending us timing signals, everything from the clocks and maps on our phones, to our emergency services and energy grid would be at risk. I’m delighted that this world-first centre will see our brightest minds, from Surrey to Strathclyde, working together to reduce the risks from satellite failure.”

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