The State Government has announced a new multi-million dollar initiative to boost Australia’s chances of winning the world’s largest radio astronomy project - the $2billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
Launching the inaugural Brilliant Science WA month today, Premier Alan Carpenter announced $20million to establish an International Radio Astronomy Research Centre in Western Australia.
Mr Carpenter said he expected the initiative to be a collaborative joint venture and leverage significant contributions from research organisations and industry.
The Premier also announced almost $10million for five new major research facilities including the:
· Radio Astronomy and Engineering Centre of Excellence ($2.3million);
· WA Geothermal Centre of Excellence ($2.3million);
· Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Woodland and Forest Health ($2.3million);
· Centre of Excellence in Ecohydrology ($1.5million); and
· Centre of Excellence for 3D Mineral Mapping ($1.5million).
Australia is one of two international bidders shortlisted for the SKA - an international project to develop a next-generation radio telescope capable of exploring the origins of the universe. Scientists and research organisations from 19 countries will contribute to the project.
“The SKA is considered to be the world’s biggest science project of the 21st century,” Mr Carpenter said.
“Our logic is simple - we want to win the SKA project for Australia.
“We already have the best site in the world; now we want the best science in the world.
“We want WA to provide not only the site (the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory in the State’s Mid-West), but also the infrastructure and the people doing the core science and engineering.”
The Premier said the International Radio Astronomy Research Centre would add to WA’s already significant radio astronomy research capability.
“This will be a comprehensive centre that will do pure radio astronomy science as well as develop new ICT and engineering systems,” he said.
“The centre will involve The University of Western Australia, Curtin University of Technology, CSIRO, research institutions and industry. We also expect significant involvement from other WA, national and international research institutions and industry partners.
“The centre will also be home to hundreds of researchers, technicians and post-graduate students.”
Specifically, the State Government’s $20million will contribute towards:
· the employment of up to 100 scientists and technicians to undertake radio astronomy research and development;
· purchasing and developing new software and technologies;
· developing radio astronomy-related industry capability in WA through employing scientists and engineers to work with local industry to design, develop and manufacture engineering solutions for SKA;
· undertaking public outreach and education programs; and
· creating domestic and international linkages and partnerships on SKA.
Mr Carpenter said the State Government would ask research institutions and industry to work together to put forward proposals for the centre.
“We would expect to see final proposals by July this year, with the centre up and running in 2009,” he said.
These initiatives follow on from the Premier’s joint announcement with the Australian Government last September of the formation of a high level inter-government committee that would oversee Australia’s SKA bid.
A final decision on the location of the SKA is expected by 2012, with international scientists currently investigating the suitability of sites in both WA and Southern Africa.
Premier's office - 9222 9475