Brussels, 24 February 2014: The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) delivered a presentation at the Transformational Science with the SKA Symposium, which took place on 17-21 February 2014 in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
The Transformational Science with the SKA Symposium discussed the progress in SKA science within the last two decades, as well as outlined its relationship to scientific results from other contemporary instruments. Meeting sessions encompassed all aspects of contemporary radio astronomy, including the early Universe, HI in galaxies, star formation, galaxy evolution, pulsars and transients.
The Symposium brought together an impressively large number of participants from all over the globe; however, as agreed among the Symposium contributors, the proportion of African participants was smaller than expected. Participants confirmed the need to increase the number of African researchers, scientists and engineers actively participating in radio astronomy meetings and conferences both in Africa and outside its borders.
Advances in science and technology are key drivers of socio-economic development, which increase competitiveness and stimulate human capital development. Enabling major research and technological advances, which are crucial for the future of radio astronomy and related topics such as Big Data or renewable energy, is one of the main objectives of the AERAP.
AERAP, represented by its co-initiator, Mr Declan Kirrane, was one of the key contributors at the Symposium. In his presentation, Mr Kirrane introduced the participants to AERAP activities, highlighting the role of the Platform in coordinating African-European calls for proposals under Horizon 2020, the EU’s new programme for financing research and innovation.
On this subject, Kirrane said, “AERAP is the ideal vehicle for coordinating African-European calls for proposals under Horizon 2020. It will assist individuals interested in participating in project proposals focused on African-European radio astronomy cooperation by finding the right consortium partners and consequently assisting with the proposal preparation.”
During his speech, Kirrane described the benefits of participating in Horizon 2020 and sensitised the participants to the support AERAP can offer under this framework. “AERAP”, he said, “can help all interested parties identify the calls for proposals best corresponding to their respective research project, assist them in the process of finding suitable project partners, provide support in the coordination & development of project proposals, as well as offer advice on the application process”.
He also emphasised the increasing number of expressions of interest thus far received from parties interested in using AERAP as a coordinator of their project proposals. More than 50 individuals expressed their ideas for proposals under Horizon 2020, identifying themes such as: ICT & Big Data, Interferometry, Education & Training, the AVN, Technology development, Outreach, as well as Low & Mid frequency radio astronomy.
On the occasion of the Mid-frequency aperture array workshop which took place on 22 February 2014 at the same venue as the Symposium, Mr Takalani Nemaungani, Director of Global Projects at the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa delivered a presentation on AERAP and sensitized the workshop participants to the new funding opportunities, which have recently became available under Horizon 2020.
The purpose of this workshop was to assess the scientific and engineering interest in South Africa and SKA partner countries for mid-frequency aperture arrays. Specific focus was placed on building a strong support network in Africa amongst scientists and engineers for aperture array technology. Speakers included several high profile scientists, as well as leading engineers in their respective field.
With respect to plans and visions for the near future, AERAP intends to focus on coordinating the project proposal submission under Horizon 2020, providing policy input on the basis of the work programmes, extending the dialogue with EU institutions and Member states, as well as maintaining awareness and visibility in both Europe and Africa.
On the importance of AERAP and the SKA, MEP Vittorio Prodi said at an AERAP Networking Dinner last October in Brussels, “SKA and AERAP are important as projects of equal footing between Africa and Europe,” and, “these cooperation initiatives in radio astronomy are an opportunity to have a true and real partnership between Africa and Europe.”
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The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)
AERAP is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, through the adoption of the Written Declaration 45/2011, and of the Heads of State of the African Union, through their decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII”, for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-EU cooperation. AERAP is a stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe.
The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. The platform will also enable effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy.
Further information on AERAP: www.aerap.org
Running from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of €79 billion, Horizon 2020 is the EU’s new programme for financing research and innovation. It is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe and it also serves as the financial instrument for implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. International cooperation in research and innovation is a crucial part of Horizon 2020.
Horizon 2020 provides major simplification through a single set of rules. It will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
Further information on Horizon 2020: http://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/index_en.cfm?pg=home
Mid-frequency aperture array technology
The “Mid-Frequency Aperture Array” (MFAA) element of the SKA, part of the SKA Advanced Instrumentation Programme, includes the activities necessary for the development of a set of antennas, on board amplifiers and local processing required for the Aperture Array telescope of the SKA. MFAA includes the development of local station signal processing and hardware required to combine the antennas and the transport of antenna data to the station processing.
This technology allows for a wide range of science cases to be explored. Within the AERAP and Marie Sk?odowska-Curie actions from the European Union there is an opportunity to invest in preparations for the mid-frequency aperture array radio telescope in South Africa.
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