The world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, is one step closer to reality thanks to European Union funding announced in February 2015.
The international SKA project is one of the largest scientific projects in history, bringing together scientists and engineers with industry and governments around the world from more than 20 countries, to design a mega-science facility that will transform the way we understand the Universe.
The EU has allocated funding of $A 8million under its Horizon 2020 science and research program to help support the detailed design of the infrastructure required at the two SKA co-host sites – the Murchison region of Western Australia and the Karoo region of South Africa. The funds will come from the EU's Horizon 2020 $A 120billion science and research program.
EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said ambitious projects like these capture the human imagination.
"They can lead to life-changing discoveries and innovations as well as new knowledge for the whole world," Commissioner Moedas said. "The EU is making an important contribution through Horizon 2020, supporting a unique scientific instrument that is open to the world."
The EU's Ambassador to Australia, Sem Fabrizi said the announcement was an important investment in Australia's world class research infrastructure.
"The EU is the world's largest investor in research and innovation and this $A 8million will significantly benefit Australia," Ambassador Fabrizi said. "The EU is pleased to announce this important investment that will lead to even closer scientific and innovation ties between Europe and Australia's best and brightest researchers."
The funding will be shared between the international SKA Office, located at Jodrell Bank in the UK, Infrastructure Australia, led by Australia’s CSIRO and Infrastructure South Africa, led by SKA South Africa. According to CSIRO’s Antony Schinckel, Head of SKA Infrastructure Australia, the funds will support Stage 2 SKA infrastructure activities.
“Building a telescope in the middle of the Australian outback is a huge logistical challenge – not only do we need power, communications, water supply and sanitation and a large facility to house the custom supercomputer - but everything we design will need to preserve the uniquely radio-quiet environment of our site and ensure the SKA will achieve its science goals,” he said.
Simon Berry, the Director of Policy Development at the SKA Global Headquarters, who led the development of the successful bid said the funding was excellent news.
"The SKA continues to be seen as an important global project by the European Union," he said. "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.”
The SKA is currently in pre-construction phase, with Phase 1 construction set to begin in 2018 and early science from 2020.
For further information please contact Wendy Yorke, Trade and Investment Manager, Science, Innovation and Technology, Government of Western Australia European Office, London firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/australia/index_en.htm