Media release

SKA SA-led Infra SA Consortium receives more than R40 million in European Union Horizon 2020 funding

23 February 2016

A Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA)-led consortium has received €2,251,920 (more than R40,3 million) from the European Union Horizon 2020 Funding to undertake the detailed design of the SKA1_MID infrastructure and power elements in South Africa. The announcement, which was made yesterday in Manchester in the UK, will see a total award amount of €5M by the European Union’s Research and Innovation programmeHorizon 2020.

The funding will enable activity across the Infrastructure SKA (IN_SKA) programme, 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. This includes the design of the SKA1_MID power network, roads, buildings, antenna foundations, water and sanitation, site monitoring, security, communications and vehicles.

The Consortium is led by Tracy Cheetham, General Manager: Site Operations and Infrastructure at SKA SA, and comprises of SKA SA staff members, young graduate professionals, retired engineers from the South African Institute for Civil Engineering (SAICE) Development Projects and South African industry partners.

This includes 11 SKA SA engineers / project managers appointed by SKA SA, three young graduate engineers from SAICE and one SKA SA young graduate professional. The SKA SA team and young graduates are mentored and supported by six retired engineers appointed by the SKA SA through SAICE Development Projects.

“We are extremely pleased and excited to receive this funding to take forward the detailed design of the SKA1_MID infrastructure and power on behalf of the SKAO. It is also a very good opportunity to involve experts and retired engineers, as well as to provide an opportunity to young engineering professionals to hone their skills on a project of this magnitude, which is directly in line with SKA SA’s vision of developing science and engineering capacity in South Africa. The SKA SA infrastructure team has excelled and we are all very proud of their achievements, hard work and commitment in an effort to realising the first phase of the SKA in South Africa,” says Cheetham.

The South African industry partners are in the process of being appointed for Stage 2 to assist with the detailed design of the SKA1_MID antenna foundations and the construction of an antenna foundation prototype on site and to undertake the detailed design of the building and power facility upgrades required for SKA1_MID.

The main deliverables for Stage 2 include capital, operations and maintenance cost plan updates; a topographical survey of the SKA1_MID site; a geotechnical and geohydrological investigation of the SKA1_MID site; road maintenance usage reports; Radio Frequency Interference control plans for infrastructure and power sub-elements; a Power Analysis report; antenna foundation prototype and detailed design; detailed design reports of all infrastructure and power sub-elements; a suite of management plans; and a Critical Design Review.

The detailed design commenced in April 2015 and is expected to be completed in April 2017.

Notes to editors

Biography: Tracy Cheetham: General Manager: Site Operations and Infrastructure at SKA SA

Tracy Cheetham has been at SKA South Africa since 2007 and has been working in the engineering and construction field in South Africa since 1997. She is the SKA SA General Manager: Infrastructure and Site Operations and the Consortium Leader for the Infra SA Consortium. Her responsibilities include the design, construction, operations and maintenance of the infrastructure and power for the Karoo Radio Astronomy Observatory which includes the SKA pathfinder, MeerKAT. She is also responsible for the site surveys required for SKA1_MID, acquiring and managing the land required for the SKA and obtaining the necessary construction licenses for the construction of SKA1_MID.

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will atract. It promises to shape the future of scientific endeavour in the European Union, and beyond, for the remainder of the decade. Its widened remit, which includes the key pillars of Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges, means this framework programme will touch more lives and shape more sectors than any of its predecessors.

The sheer vastness of this groundbreaking programme, with its myriad areas of focus and significant resources, demands a need to independently disseminate the enormous levels of information and scientific results that will be generated.

Simon Berry, Director of Policy Develop 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.”

EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, said: “Ambitious projects like these capture the human imaginitation and can lead to life-changing discoveries and innovation as well as new knowledge of the whole world. The EU is making an important contribution through Horizon 2020, supporting a unique scientific instrument that is open to the world.”


Lorenzo Raynard
Mobile: +27 (0)71 454 0658

Last Updated on July 22, 2016

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