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British Industrial History

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Warren Spring Laboratory

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of Stevenage

1958/9 The Warren Spring Laboratory was established by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research at Stevenage, taking over some of the work of the former Fuel Research Station with respect to the synthesis of oil from carbon monoxide and hydrogen and research into atmospheric pollution. It also took over the Fuel Research Station's Scottish branch at Thorntonhall.

It was initially envisaged entirely as a replacement for the earlier establishment, but the Research Council of the department decided to discontinue substantial parts of that station's programme and to accelerate the building of the new one for purposes much wider than fuel research, in particular for process research and development over a wide field. For this reason its name was derived from local topography and did not imply limitation to a specific field. It took over from the department's Headquarters Office research programme in the field of human sciences.

Another important sphere of its activities was to be chemical engineering research, and in this connection it absorbed the Chemical Engineering Group of the National Chemical Laboratory in January 1959.

1964 The National Chemical Laboratory's Extraction of Metals Group was taken over and integrated with the Mineral Processing Division.

1965 The Warren Spring Laboratory was transferred to the Ministry of Technology

The work was at various times organised by division:

  • Atmospheric Pollution Division
  • Chemical Engineering and Process Development Division
  • Engineering Services and Human Sciences Division
  • Mineral Processing Division
  • Physical and Chemical Services Division

1970 Transferred to the Department of Trade and Industry

1974 Transferred to the Department of Industry

Warren Spring Laboratory became the UK Government's environmental research laboratory specialising in a wide range of environmental sciences including contaminated land, waste management, air pollution, marine pollution, pollution abatement and environmental management.

1978 the MAPCON Unit was set up within the Control Engineering Division (subsequently the Control Engineering/Computer Services Division). This administered a scheme designed to encourage the use of microelectronics by manufacturing industry.

1983 Warren Spring Laboratory was transferred to the second Department of Trade and Industry

Subsequently the Laboratory's research covered the bulk handling of powders, pastes and slurries; process control and on-line analytical systems; catalysis; mineral concentration; pyro and hydro-metallurgy; air pollution; oil pollution; and recovery of materials from domestic and industrial wastes.

In early 1994 the UK Government closed the laboratory transferring some staff to AEA Technology who, together with some AEA staff, formed the New National Environmental Technology Centre (NETCEN).

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