In 1944 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research's Post-war Development Committee declared that a considerable increase in the facilities for research into the problems of mechanical engineering was essential. In accordance with the recommendations of this committee a Mechanical Engineering Research Organisation was established by the department in 1946 to conduct and encourage research in mechanical engineering on a large scale. Shortly after in 1947 it was decided to establish a separate Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory, which became the National Engineering Laboratory (NEL) in 1959.
NEL’s overarching purpose has always been to establish the principles and to extend the knowledge of mechanical engineering science so that industry could be provided with the basic information needed to solve particular problems.
The National Engineering Laboratory (NEL) was originally one of several large government-funded public research laboratories (National Measurement Institutes – NMI’s) in the UK, staffed by scientists and engineers of the Scientific Civil Service. Other such laboratories include the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC), the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Transport Research Establishment (TRL).
Historically, the 'lab' was organised into a number of subject-based divisions, including Creep Division, an important part of the UK effort to catalogue wear characteristics of materials, a Control Systems Division, Manufacturing Services Division, Fluid Power Division and Design Analysis Division.
NEL became part of the TÜV SÜD group in 1995. Along with the other national laboratories, some of which are still owned or controlled by the UK government, NEL now has a mixed portfolio of work from both government and private sectors. NEL holds the national standard for flow and density measurement, one of the most important roles it undertakes as part of the overall UK government science strategy.
The National Measurement System provides the UK with an infrastructure of laboratories, including NEL, which deliver the UK’s traceable standards of measurement. The NMS is delivered through the Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).