The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project has been awarded €5M from the European Union’s Research and Innovation program Horizon 2020 to further advance some of its activities. The EU-allocated funding will help support the detailed design of the infrastructure required at the two SKA telescope co-host sites – the Murchison region of Western Australia and the Karoo region of South Africa – and adds to the €150M currently being invested globally in the project’s pre-construction phase.
Simon Berry, Director of Policy Development at the SKA Global Headquarters who led the development of the successful bid, noted: “It’s excellent news. The SKA continues to be seen as an important global project by the European Union, and this funding will allow us to complete critical design activities. Once these activities are complete, companies and communities in Europe and around the world within our member countries will be poised to benefit from it.”
Beyond its fundamental contributions to astronomy and physics for the international scientific community, the SKA is widely considered as a human capital development instrument and an innovation driver in many areas of interest to industry and society as a whole. These areas of interest include electronic and mechanical engineering, computing and software design and remote efficient power infrastructure.
EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said: “Ambitious projects like these capture the human imagination and can lead to life-changing discoveries and innovations as well as new knowledge for the whole world. The EU is making an important contribution through Horizon 2020, supporting a unique scientific instrument that is open to the world.”
SKA Organisation – which oversees the design, construction and operation of the SKA – was invited to apply for the European funding and will be responsible for administrating the grant’s activities.
The funding will enable activity across the INfrastructure SKA (IN-SKA) program, including work at the SKA Global Headquarters in the UK and also within the two teams responsible for delivering the SKA’s infrastructure design:Infrastructure Australia, led by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in partnership with Aurecon Australasia, and Infrastructure South Africa, led by SKA South Africa.
Martin Austin, Engineering Project Manager for Site & Infrastructure at the SKA Global Headquarters and who oversees the delivery of the infrastructure design for both sites, added: “Infrastructure is the supporting backbone of the project. Without it, it would be impossible to deliver the telescope and the end product science for the broader community. This welcome funding takes us to the next step: detailed design, the last step on paper before procurement and construction work starts.”