NPL is an internationally respected centre of excellence in measurement and materials science. Since 1900, when Bushy House was selected as the site of NPL, it has developed and maintained the primary national measurement standards. Today it provides the scientific resources for the National Measurement System financed by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. NPL also offers a range of commercial services, applying scientific skills to industrial measurement problems, and manages the MSF time signal. NPL has carried out work in the area of micro-optics including microlenses and microlens arrays.
Teddington was also home to the UK National Chemical Laboratory but this was closed in 1965 and some of its work was transferred to NPL.
NPL cooperates with professional networks such as those of the IET to support scientists and engineers concerned with areas of work in which it has expertise.
Researchers who have worked at the NPL include Paul Baran and Donald Davies, who co-invented packet switching in the early 1960s; D. W. Dye who did important work in developing the technology of quartz clocks; Louis Essen, who invented a more accurate atomic clock than those first built in America. Others who have spent time at NPL include Harry Huskey, a computer pioneer; Alan Turing, one of the fathers of modern digital computing who was largely responsible for the early ACE computer design; Robert Watson-Watt, generally considered the inventor of radar, Oswald Kubaschewski, the father of computational materials thermodynamics and the numerical analyst James Wilkinson.
A new state-of-the-art laboratory for the NPL at Teddington was completed in 2007.