28 April 2017
Marking the ground-breaking of the SKA Global Headquarters at Jodrell Bank. From left to right: Prof. Grahame Blair (STFC), Prof. Philip Diamond (SKA Director-General), Prof. Colin Bailey (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester) and Councillor David Brown (Cheshire East Council Deputy Leader).
Construction work has started on the UK headquarters of a world-leading science project that is building the biggest ever radio telescope. The building will not only be a flagship facility for UK science but will also provide a boost to the regional economy.
A special ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the Square Kilometre Array Global Headquarters (SKA GHQ) took place on the SKA premises at The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank site for what will be the central office for the world’s largest radio telescope. It is due to open in June 2018.
As part of a consortium of international funding bodies which support the SKA, funding for the HQ has come from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (£9.8 million) via the STFC, The University of Manchester (£5.7 million) and Cheshire East Council (£1 million) for the £16.5 million project.
STFC Executive Director of Programmes Grahame Blair attended the ground-breaking event and said of the project: “This is an important project milestone, which demonstrates the UK's leading role in one of the world’s largest science experiments.
“Hosting the SKA headquarters in the UK at Jodrell will not only ensure this scientific leadership continues, but will also promote the maximum return to the UK economy from the technological developments needed to make the SKA work.”
The 4,200m2 SKA GHQ will eventually be home to more than 135 staff from more than 13 countries, tasked with managing the construction and operations of the Square Kilometre Array telescopes, located in Southern Africa and Western Australia.
The finished telescopes will be several times more sensitive and hundreds of times faster at mapping the sky than today’s best radio astronomy facilities.
Home to what will be the only inter-governmental organisation in the North West, the SKA GHQ will contribute to the local economy through goods and services expenditure and staff household spend. It will also help put Cheshire on the international map by receiving high-level dignitaries from the SKA’s member countries, as well as thousands of scientists and engineers from around the globe working on the project.
UK scientists and engineers will be helping to build the world’s largest telescope and the world’s biggest microscope. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will manage the UK role in these exciting projects which will be at the forefront of science in the coming decade.
Also in attendance was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, Professor Colin Bailey; the Director-General of the SKA Organisation, Professor Philip Diamond; and representatives from Cheshire East Council.
Professor Diamond said: “In the next ten years, the SKA Global Headquarters will become a real nexus for radio-astronomy internationally, and is a fantastic continuation of the proud history of radio-astronomy at Jodrell Bank.”
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The SKA will be the next generation radio telescope array, with a transformational impact. It was originally conceived as a “Hydrogen Pulsar” telescope, but it will provide a sea change in most areas of astronomy. Early science is scheduled to begin in 2020. The UK is contributing £100 million, representing about 18-19% of the project, to the construction of the instrument and STFC represents the UK as part of the SKA consortium.
STFC is working with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK, KTN and UKTI to develop and execute the industry strategy and support UK Industry being involved in the SKA project. STFC provide a single point contact for Industry to engage with the SKA. This support is there to nurture new spin offs, open new markets for UK Industry to SKA Member countries and allow companies to tender for SKA construction contracts.