Krzysztof Maruszewski, JRC-IRMM Director, addressing the audience during the inauguration of the new laboratory for reference materials production© EU (2010)
New scientific facility at JRC-IRMM
On 23 November, a new scientific facility to develop measurement standards in challenging areas such as life sciences was inaugurated at JRC-IRMM in Geel, Belgium. The new facility will be used to develop and produce reference materials, which possess a precisely-known property and are the basis for complex measurements, such as the amount of genetically modified maize or the number of bacteria in a food sample. The total cost of the facility was 11 M€ – of which 4.5 M€ was funded from revenue from JRC's reference material activities.
The building features a large and flexible production hall which brings together processing and measurement equipment in an innovative manner. It will provide Europe with a unique facility for the development and production of reference materials, bridging the gap between laboratory and industrial scale. The new building also houses laboratories for the analysis of heavy metals and proteins and a special laboratory for the safe handling of biomaterials.
The European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: "From buying food in the supermarket to undergoing clinical tests, European citizens depend on measurements and testing to be as accurate and harmonised as possible. This is particularly important for emerging technologies, such as genetic testing and nanotechnology. This new facility will enable the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) to remain at the forefront of measurement science, by developing internationally-recognised measurement standards that are used as benchmarks in analytical laboratories across Europe and worldwide."
The reference materials developed and produced at JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) provide laboratories around the world with a benchmark to deliver accurate, harmonised and traceable result and help implement legislation through accurate and reliable testing, also in emerging areas such as molecular biosciences and personalised medicine.
About reference materials
There are countless examples in which accurate measurements are crucial, such as hospital blood tests, measuring the size of nanoparticles or checking shipments of foodstuffs for the presence of genetically modified organisms, and they all have a direct impact on the citizens' every day life. Reference materials play a crucial role behind the scenes, enabling analytical laboratories over the world to carry out tests in a comparable and harmonised manner. They are used by laboratories to calibrate their instruments, to develop reliable testing methods and to perform their regular quality controls.
The JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements is one of the leading developers and producers of reference materials in the world, particularly in the clinical, food and GMO application areas. It currently provides over 670 reference materials, and distributes around 20,000 units per year.