This paper deals with the role of research and development (R&D) managers in shaping the landscape of public research in Europe. These R&D managers work in the sphere of public research within national government laboratory services. The case we present is of the reconfiguration of metrology research. Metrology is the science of measurement. We examine why scientists and research managers in nationally embedded institutes, which are performing R&D in support of national policy and local industry needs, have chosen to co-operate in a shared research programme. This means giving up, in part, their national sovereignty over funds and decision making. Furthermore, we examine how they have achieved the shared programme, which was launched as a European Commission (EC) programme through the Article 1851 initiative, which allows the European Union to participate in research programmes undertaken jointly by several Member States.