LGC Group, formerly the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, is an international life sciences measurement and testing company, which also provides the role and duties of the UK Government Chemist, a statutory role and adviser to the government. LGC also hosts the UK National Measurement Laboratory for chemical and biomeasurement, which performs high accuracy measurements for diagnostics, advanced therapeutics, safety and security, among others.
|Formation||February 1996 (formerly Laboratory of the Government Chemist; origins in 1842)|
|Legal status||Private limited company|
LGC provides a range of measurement products and services including reference materials and proficiency testing, genomics reagents and instrumentation, and expert sample analysis and interpretation. LGC serves customers in various fields including pharmaceuticals, agricultural biotechnology, diagnostics, food, environment, government, and academia.
LGC participates in the European Reference Materials consortium, together with the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) of the European Commission's Directorate General Joint Research Centre and the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM).
Its operations are extensively accredited to international quality standards such as ISO/IEC 17025, ISO 13485, ISO 9001, GMP, GLP and ISO Guide 34.
UK Government Chemist
The Government Chemist is a person appointed with statutory duties prescribed in seven acts of Parliament, supported by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC). In addition this person acts as an advisor to the government on relevant matters. As of 2018, both these functions are funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), but LGC is a private company, and the Government Chemist, Julian Braybrook, is an employee of LGC.
In 1842 the Department of Excise set up a laboratory in its Broad Street headquarters to check tobacco for adulteration, i.e. the addition of other substances to increase profits and evade duty. (The amount of tobacco being sold was much greater than that being imported.) It had one employee, George Phillips who used a microscope and chemical tests, most of which he had developed himself. The work of the laboratory expanded to check for adulteration in pepper, beer and coffee with further staff being employed under Phillips, and a new laboratory was opened in Somerset House in 1859, by which time Excise had joined the Inland Revenue. In 1861 it dealt with 11,000 samples. The work also expanded to include foodstuffs and soap and in 1874 Phillips had 12 permanent staff. The Inland Revenue Laboratory as it was now known was appointed a Referee Analyst under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act 1875, i.e. one whose findings were accepted in a court of law. This greatly added to the number of samples being submitted.
In 1894 an official Government Laboratory was set up, combining both the Inland Revenue Laboratory and a separate Customs Laboratory which had been set up in 1860, moving to purpose-built premises in Clement's Inn Passage in 1897. The head was Dr Edward Thorpe, with the title of Principal Chemist, who expanded its activities to include health problems caused by the match and lead-glazing industries. His report of 1907 states that 173,606 analyses and examinations were made on behalf of the departments of Customs and Excise, other departments and in connection with two acts, the Food And Drugs Act and the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act.
First Government Chemist
In 1911 the Government Laboratory became an independent department of government (the smallest one under the Treasury) as the Department of the Government Chemist. The Principal, Dr James Dobbie was the first to be given the new title of Government Chemist. The analysis of tobacco remained a substantial part of the work, being greatly increased during World War I because of supplies to troops. Demand increased with interwar legislation, and the Laboratory had to do considerable original research to develop new and better methods of analysis. The number of routine samples between 1920 and 1939 went from 199,388 to 430,314. It was also asked by government to look into methods associated with the carriage of dangerous goods, atmospheric pollution, and the possible dangers to health arising from the use of tetraethyllead in motor fuel. World War II produced a peak demand of 560 354 samples.
Creation of the Laboratory of the Government Chemist
In 1959 the Government Laboratory ceased to be a separate department but instead was under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and in 1963 moved to new premises in Cornwall House, Waterloo, London as the Laboratory of the Government Chemist. In 1989 it was changed into an Executive Agency under the Department of Trade and Industry. This gave it the remit to seek outside work (which it already did to a significant extent) and earn income to fully cover costs, while having more management autonomy.. It also moved to new premises in Teddington.
As part of a general programme of privatization of public services by the government, Michael Heseltine announced that Laboratory of the Government Chemist would become independent non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee, or could possibly be bought by a company or institution which could show that it would still remain sufficiently independent to fulfill its statutory duties. However the undertakings required to meet these obligations indefinitely meant that 40 initial expressions of interest produced only three considered suitable to bid, and no actual bids. A consortium of Laboratory employees, the Royal Society of Chemistry and 3i put together a bid in 1995 which was accepted, taking the form of a management buyout and it became LGC Ltd in February 1996.
Since privatisation, LGC has changed ownership and significantly expanded its activities. Valued at £3 million when privatized, it was sold for £80 million in 2003 to LGV, part of Legal & General, who sold it in 2010 to Bridgepoint Capital for the sum of £257 million, who in turn sold it in 2015 to KKR.
Employee numbers have risen from 270 in 1996 to about 2,800 in 2019, as the company has grown organically and through multiple acquisitions. Significant acquisitions since 1996 include: KBioscience, AGOWA, Forensic Alliance Limited, Mikromol, Promochem, University Diagnostics Ltd, HFL, ARMI, VHG Labs, Quotient Bioanalytical Sciences, Dr Ehrenstorfer, Biosearch Technologies, Thistle QA, Maine Standards, Prime Synthesis, immunosuppressive proficiency testing (PT) scheme from ASI, BRC Global Standards, o2si, Seracare, Lucigen and Bioautomation; and the outsourcing of analytical services from BNG and Sentinel Performance Solutions.
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- Cranston, Derek; Berryman, Paul (11 September 2018). "Government Chemist Review 2017" (PDF). www.gov.uk. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
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- Carson, Edward (1972). The Ancient and Rightful Customs. London: Faber & Faber. p. 295.
- "Report of the Principal Chemist upon the work of the Government Laboratory for the year ending March 31, 1907". The Analyst. 32 (379): 375–6. 1907. doi:10.1039/AN9073200375. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
- Gains, Francesca (1999). "IMPLEMENTING PRIVATIZATION POLICIES IN 'NEXT STEPS' AGENCIES". Public Administration. 77 (4): 713–730. doi:10.1111/1467-9299.00176.
- Frier, Peter; Birley, Sue (October 1999). "Management Buyouts in the Public Sector". Long Range Planning. 32 (5): 531–540. doi:10.1016/s0024-6301(99)00041-2.
- Ebrahimi, Helia; Harrington, Ben (24 October 2009). "Forensics group LGC put up for sale". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
- Walsh, Tessa (8 December 2015). "KKR wins battle for forensic science firm LGC". uk.reuters.com. Retrieved 27 October 2018.