We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
Better healthcare, safer food and a cleaner environment are just some of the ways in which accurate and reliable measurement results enhance our quality of life. The competitiveness of the European economy and the smooth functioning of international trade also depend on reliable measurements, which eliminate the need to duplicate or dispute testing data.
At the heart of reliable measurements are reference materials. They provide a benchmark for analytical laboratories around the world to deliver accurate and comparable results. Testing laboratories use certified reference materials to calibrate measuring instruments, evaluate test procedures and for quality control purposes.
The JRC is one of the major developers and producers of reference materials in the world. It currently provides over 760 reference materials, and distributes around 20,000 units per year to testing laboratories worldwide. The JRC's selection of reference materials are tailored to meet the needs of European policy, particularly in emerging areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and personalised medicine.
The JRC has laboratories and processing facilities for the development and production of reference materials that are unique in the world. At the JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) in Geel, Belgium, the JRC's reference material production building features a pilot plant for material processing that comprises several unique features, such as the possibility for parallel material handling thanks to movable walls and separate air-handling systems for the main processing hall. Bio-safety (level class 3) laboratories are under construction to provide the European Commission in-house access to a laboratory facility where more potent human pathogens (bacteria and viruses) may be handled after licensing from competent authorities. The reference materials developed and produced in the facility provide laboratories around the world with benchmarks to deliver accurate, harmonised and traceable result and therefore help implement EU legislation through accurate and reliable testing.
Millions of blood tests are performed each year around the world, and clinical chemistry is one example where the importance of accurate testing is evident. The next time your blood is analysed, remember that many of the data values are directly traceable to the JRC's reference materials.
The JRC provides state-of-the-art certified reference materials as quality assurance and quality control tools for the implementation of EU environmental policies.
The certified reference materials distributed by the JRC give measurement laboratories a means to validate analytical methods, to assess the quality of the measurement results and to demonstrate their traceability to stated references such as the SI units. Over the years, the JRC has developed a broad variety of food related reference materials covering a wide range of analyte/matrix combinations.
Fuel quality is an important energy issue for industry as well as for citizens. When using fuels in car engines or domestic heating, systems consumers need to be sure that the fuel does not cause any malfunction or damage to their equipment. Similarly, consumers are increasingly aware also of the environmental impact of their fuel consumption. The JRC provides certified reference materials for fuel analysis for a wide range of parameters relevant for the quality and environmental impact of fuels, be it conventional fossil fuels or biofuels.
For the implementation of the European legislation that regulates the authorisation and the labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the JRC develops, produces and distributes certified reference materials. These CRMs are used for the calibration or quality control of GMO quantification measurements.
Reference materials for materials science underpin many industrial processes and give companies as well as regulators the confidence in these measurements that strengthen assessments of legal as well as company and customer-specific specifications. This work supports the common European market and helps European companies to compete on a global scale.
The regular occurrence of food borne pathogen related outbreaks in the EU, the ongoing struggle with pathogens in health care and public health as well as the security threat related to the potential misuse of pathogens emphasise the need for an adequate and reliable monitoring system and preparedness against these risks. Consequently the JRC is aiming at maintaining a high level of quality of the measurements which have to be carried out in this context by developing and providing suitable quality assurance tools, such as reference materials, and measurement techniques.
Verification and detection in safeguarding nuclear material, conformity of information on materials and processes in nuclear forensics, as well as response in nuclear security are based on reliable measurement results with appropriate quality control tools as prerequisite. JRC provides nuclear material measurement standards, nuclear reference measurements and conformity assessment tools to safeguards authorities, industry and the international measurement community. This support includes the development of new reference materials, measurement services as well as development of reference measurement methods and their implementation.
The JRC's unique position as a European institution allows it to focus on developing challenging and ground-breaking reference materials. For example, the JRC produced the world's first certified nanoparticle reference material based on industry-sourced nanoparticles.
Reliable measurements of α, β and γ radiation are of great importance for environmental monitoring, medical treatment and nuclear safeguards.