The History of ESR Technology’s Centres and Sectors


The birth of Tribology and NCT

In 1966 the ‘Jost Report’ was published, commissioned by the UK government. This report outlined the significant financial savings that could be gained through the correct application of tribological principles. It also used the word ‘tribology’ for the first time – derived from the Greek ‘tribo’, to rub. This led to the development of Tribology as an inter-disciplinary study of friction, wear and lubrication and the establishment of three tribology centres in the UK. The National Centre of Tribology (NCT) was one of them.
NCT uses its 50 years of in-depth experience across many industrial sectors to offer independent and confidential practical solutions in tribology consultancy and testing. It also undertakes testing of machinery, consultancy involving metallurgical or materials expertise, forensic engineering and expert witness. Its understanding of industrial realities enables NCT to explain the root cause to a problem and propose viable solutions.


The creation of ESTL

In the early 1970’s a visionary decision was made by the European Space Research Organisation (now the European Space Agency) to create a Centre of Excellence in Space Tribology to support Europe’s young and developing space industry. It was believed that the application of good tribology would make a significant contribution to the efficiency, reliability and performance of European spacecraft mechanisms. In 1972 NCT bid for and won the contract and the European Space Tribology Laboratory (ESTL) was born.

The first ESTL facility being built in 1972

Today, ESTL continues to be Europe’s centre of excellence in space tribology, providing its customers with a combination of analysis, consultancy and training on the tribological aspects of spacecraft mechanisms. It also undertakes ~10 mission-focussed tribology R&D programmes per year, sharing the results. It applies solid and liquid lubrication to precision components for space and vacuum applications and performs acceptance, lifetime and qualification testing using tribometers and thermal-vacuum test facilities.
In a constantly changing world, both NCT and ESTL continue to solve unique and challenging tribological problems across a wide range of industries and applications.


The establishment of the NNDTC and HOIS

The National Non-Destructive Testing Centre (NNDTC) was created at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Harwell research establishment as long ago as 1967, in the “white heat of technology” days of the then prime minister Harold Wilson. The centre’s formation was due to pressure on the government to create a central NDT research base in the UK and the UKAEA being encouraged to diversify into non-nuclear activities. The NNDTC went on to work at the leading edge of NDT research in the UK. Its main remit was to transfer some of this technology into industry, with probably the most notable example being the development of ZIPSCAN - the world’s first portable digital ultrasonic data collection and analysis instrument for NDT.
HOIS (Harwell Offshore Inspection Service) was formed in 1982 within the NNDTC and brought together a broad spectrum of organisations involved in offshore engineering. This was at a time when the UK’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure was relatively new, but there was increasing awareness of the asset integrity issues posed by in-service degradation. Indeed, one of the first projects involved detection and accurate sizing of cracks in complex structures, such as node joints, using the TOFD method that had been developed earlier by Maurice Silk within the NNDTC and then became available for deployment on ZIPSCAN.
HOIS is now a widely respected joint industry project and forum, with 41 members comprising oil & gas producers, NDT service companies, equipment vendors and a regulatory authority. The technical programme is determined entirely by the membership; HOIS is now mainly concerned with independent assessment of the capabilities of advanced NDT technologies and the production of authoritative, trial-based guidance on NDT good practice for challenging inspection applications across the oil & gas industry.


The formation of our Safety & Risk Management (SRM) Group

The SRM group has its roots established back in the Safety and Reliability Directorate (SRD) of The United Kingdom Energy Authority (UKAEA), dating back to the 1970’s. At that time techniques such as Quantified Risk Assessment (QRA) were being taken from the nuclear industry and applied within the wider non-nuclear major hazard industries such as petrochemical, process and oil and gas. SRD was at the forefront of these developments and, working closely with The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), carried out the world’s first major hazard risk assessment for Canvey Island in the UK and established a long-standing relationship with HSE in major hazard research and development.
Building from this our SRM Oil and Gas Business began life in the late 1980s during the commercialisation of UKAEA with the formation of AEA Technology and following The Piper Alpha Accident and the subsequent major changes in UK Offshore Regulations as a result of The Cullen Inquiry.

Over the last 25 years or so our SRM Oil and Gas business has worked with Regulators, Operators and Engineering Design Contractors on many major projects in the oil and gas and other sectors in the UK, Middle East and many locations around the world. Our staff are renowned and respected for their depth of knowledge and experience within major hazard risk assessment and associated technical areas including general consequence assessment and fire, explosion and smoke and gas dispersion modelling.
Most recently our SRM team has been further strengthened during 2016 by being joined by the staff of the former UK Vectra Oil and Gas team whilst ESR Technology was part of the Arcadis Group, the owners of Vectra UK.


Coming together as ESR Technology

Each of these centres of excellence – NCT, ESTL, HOIS and our SRM group, came together as one company when ESR Technology was formed in 2005 following divestment out of AEA Technology. Whilst each sector specialises in its particular field of expertise, they all provide independent technical consultancy, products and services to their loyal end customers, many of whom select ESR Technology as their preferred supplier.

We have placed cookies on your computer to help make this website better.

More details can be found in our privacy policy.