The SKA benefits from UK investment

March 27th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

SKA – the world’s next great science project, after the International Space Station and the Large Hadron Collider

The UK Science Minister, the Rt. Hon. David Willetts announced funding of £100-million for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, in a recent speech at Jodrell Bank Observatory. The emblematic observatory hosts the headquarters of the SKA Organisation, which leads the project.   The UK-based Science and Technology Facilities Council ( STFC) also confirmed that it is investing £19-million over the next four years in the SKA project. STFC is one of the UK’s seven publicly funded Research Councils responsible for supporting, co-ordinating and promoting research, innovation and skills development in seven distinct fields.

“Investment in science is a crucial part of this government’s long-term economic plan. It’s about investing in our future, helping grow new industries and create more jobs – and that will mean more financial security for people across the country”, the UK Science Minister said.

Under the current schedule for the project, funding for construction of Phase 1 is due to be confirmed by 2016 with start of construction expected in 2018 and early science expected to start in 2020.

Meerkat core foundations photographed from the air. Meerkat is the precursor to the SKA . Photo by Renier Siebrits

Meerkat core foundations photographed from the air. Meerkat is the precursor to the SKA .
Photo by Renier Siebrits

Minister Willetts’ announcement secures a significant portion of the construction budget for Phase 1, bringing the project that much closer to taking off. Following the announcement Prof. Phil Diamond, director general of the SKA Organisation, said: “This is a really exciting announcement for the SKA and a solid proof that the project is now really underway. With such a major investment secured there is no stopping it”.

The SKA project has been moving forward at a steady pace with the establishment of the SKA Organisation as the supervising body to oversee the project in 2011, the dual site selection in 2012 and the start of the final design phase of the project in November 2013, with the selection of 11 teams  (consortia),  each designing a specific element of the telescope. This represents over 350 scientists from 100 organisations from the public, private and industrial sectors in some 20 countries around the globe, working on designing this revolutionary machine.

Prof. John Womersley, CEO of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and chair of the SKA Board, said: “It’s fantastic news for the SKA. This represents a significant investment on behalf of the UK and, along with our other contributions, aims to confirm the UK’s leading role in key aspects of the project”.

STFC also confirmed that it is investing £19-million over the next four years in the SKA project, made up of a capital investment in Big Data of £11-million and a further £2-million a year in the on-going core programme.

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