Seven countries involved in the international Square Kilometre Array radioastronomy project have formed a company to formalise relationships with industry partners.
The SKA Organisation was established last week with a budget of €69 million (AUD$95 million) from research institutions and government departments in Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Britain.
The not-for-profit company is based at the British University of Manchester, will directly employ staff and make legally binding decisions about the telescope’s design.
It will replace the SKA Program Development Office, which was established in 2008 to develop a costed design and evaluate potential sites for the 3000-dish array.
Organisers are expected to decide on hosting the array in either Australia and New Zealand or southern Africa next February.
So far, the SKA Organisation has inked a total of five statements of mutual interest with IBM, Nokia-Siemens, Cisco and defence suppliers BAE and Selex Galileo.
A spokeswoman for the SKA Program Development Office said its €69 million budget was for design work until 2016, separate from a €1.5 billion (AUD$2 billion) budget for constructing the array.
Design and development work would be conducted by global consortia of industry and academic institutions that would report to the new SKA Organisation, she said.
Cisco has worked with SKA bid organisers in both Australia and South Africa for several years while IBM Australia also began supporting the local bid with about 16 staff five years ago.
Organisers expect the SKA to drive the development of antennae, fibre networks, signal processing, software and computing, energy, skills and employment in host countries and all partner countries.