Standards and government

What role do standards play in government?

Using standards benefits government organisations in many ways, from streamlining their own processes to helping build alternative approaches to regulation.

Government is keen to reduce red tape for both the private and public sectors. A key way to do this is to have regulators and their inspectors concentrate their efforts on those organisations which present the highest risk – rather than putting the burden on everyone, as has often been the case in the past.

This is where standards come in. Not to replace regulations, but to complement them. Standards are shaped by best practice, so if an organisation is using them, it is probably being well managed. This makes it easier for regulators to decide where to focus their attention. Standards are the foundation on which a risk-based approach to regulation can be built.

We work closely with the UK government in many areas. Its representatives participate in our technical committees along with those from business, academia, and consumer groups. Together, we make sure that products, processes, new technologies and services incorporate the knowledge and needs of all interested parties.

Using our standards also helps the government's own processes become more efficient, for example eliminating waste and achieving maximum value for money in its procurement processes. 

Finally, standards help government departments encourage the growth of groundbreaking new products and industries – by providing dependable knowledge and standardisation so that new technologies can work seamlessly with existing technologies.

How we work with government

  • Close relationships with UK departments and agencies who contribute to the development of national, European and international standards.
  • Direct links with specific government departments to provide informal or private standards – customised, quick solutions that address a particular issue or need.
  • Collaboration with other countries, licensing British Standards abroad, and "twinning" to help build standardisation capabilities in less developed countries.
  • Working with government organisations and public sector managers to ensure they improve efficiency.
  • In collaboration with our fellow standards bodies across Europe, along with the European standards organisations CEN and CENELEC, responding to and working with the European Commission on matters of policy, such as innovation, competitiveness and trade.
  • Supporting many of the most important European Directives  concerning matters of safety, performance, and import/export of products and services through a comprehensive set of standards. These standards help manufacturers and service providers to meet their obligations and trade their goods within the Single European Market.

How standards help government encourage innovation

  • Standards create a common framework for innovation that encourages the sharing of knowledge, for example by defining common vocabularies, establishing essential characteristics of a product or service, or providing a means to disseminate results of research and development.
  • They minimize duplication during research and development, thereby increasing efficiency.
  • They maximise the ability of a product to be used in conjunction with others.
  • They reduce unnecessary variance.
  • They can provide a framework for moving from the development bench into production, through defining essential parameters, safety considerations, testing, prototyping, and scale-up.