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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Measurements & testing projects > Mastering measurement
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Chemicals are an ever-present component in almost everything we buy, use or consume. Accurate measurement of these chemicals and their properties and the correct interpretation of these measurements are essential to ensuring that products and processes are both efficient and safe. A new Virtual Institute, comprising 13 centres from all over Europe, will be providing information on how to ensure, assess and enhance the quality of measurements by using appropriate statistical and mathematical procedures.

Humans have long understood the importance of accurate measurement. Ancient methods were certainly pretty basic; our ancestors often used the widths of their fingers, the palms of their hands and their feet to fix standards of length. The foot, still used widely today under the imperial system, is an example where the word for the body part is still employed. Like today, ancient peoples used measurement to ensure quality and fairness. While our world may be a bit more complicated, the principles are still the same. Standards of measurement and the ability to understand these measurements are as important as ever in ensuring the quality and indeed the safety of everything we eat, wear and use in our daily lives.

Getting the chemistry right

There can be few examples where accurate measurement is as important as in the chemicals industry. Chemical use is widespread, but they can be dangerous if used inappropriately or in the wrong concentrations. The levels and quality of chemicals used in any product or process likely to affect human health or the environment must, therefore, be carefully monitored.

"Better, more sophisticated measurements are essential to EU industry," says Professor Luc-Desire Massart of the Free University of Brussels, head of the new Virtual Institute for Industrial Chemometrics and Metrology (VICIM) . "Correct measurements are necessary to ensure that environmental and health standards are met and that the processes used by industry are the best they can be."

Ensuring environmental standards means adhering to International and European regulations, which is only possible if one can accurately measure possible contaminants. Precise measurement is also vital when working with chemicals likely to enter the human food chain. Food, for example, contains chemical additives to enhance flavour and increase storage time. And of course, the drugs we use to treat and prevent disease contain chemicals.

Research is another area where correct measurement is essential. Extracting all the relevant information from results and putting this information to the best use depends entirely on having good quality data and being able to properly analyse it. Unfortunately, the abundance of high-quality research results being produced in the EU is not being exploited as well as in Japan and the United States. Accurate measurement procedures and interpretation techniques would certainly enhance Europe's position in this respect. With this in mind, VICIM is aiming to provide European industry and academia with the know-how and tools to face the challenge of complex chemical measurement and to ensure the quality of measurement results.

Virtual Partners

VICIM brings together experts from different European institutes with knowledge in a wide-range of chemical measurement techniques for all areas where chemicals are likely to be used, such as in the pharmaceuticals, food and plastics industries. There are experts from university laboratories and spin-off companies grouped into 13 knowledge cells in 12 countries. The members of the institute work mainly in the areas of metrology, which is the science of measurement, and chemometrics, the field of expertise concerned with the interpretation and processing of chemical measurements data.

In bringing together these experts, VICIM hopes to become the primary reference for anyone with problems related to chemical measurement. Courses on aspects of chemical measurement will be available, and the institute will provide consultancy services and conduct research in the area of chemical measurement.

"Now that we are up and running, the EU has pledged its continuing support in reinforcing and maintaining the institute," says Massart. Over the first three years, funding will be provided by the EU. During that time, the institute will be established as a legal entity, which will take about a year. The EU will continue to fund the institute for the next two years, after which time it is anticipated that consulting and research activities will be generating substantial income. The institute should be financially viable after four years. Once firmly established, the institute will be providing services for both European and international customers from both industry and government bodies on a commercial basis.

For more information, see the VICIM website at:

Getting the chemistry right
Virtual Partners

Key data

Research under the 'Measurements and testing' generic activity of the Growth Programme is supporting the establishment of cost-effective chemical measurement practices. Now, a virtual institute with responsibility for the development of accurate measuring procedures in specific areas of chemical analysis and for distributing this knowledge to those who need has been established.


VICIM - Virtual Institute for chemometrics and industrial metrology (GTC1-2001-43030).


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