SKA $80m funding boost raises questions

14/05/2009 - 12:33

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An $80 million federal budget allocation to boost the state's chances of hosting the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array project has raised questions from the existing project's headquarters.

SKA $80m funding boost raises questions

An $80 million federal budget allocation to boost the state's chances of hosting the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array project has raised questions from the existing project's headquarters.

The federal government allocated a total of $160.5 million to bolster Australia's space and astronomy research, including $80 million for the Australian National Centre of SKA Science in Perth.

WA's Mid West region and South Africa are vying to build and house the $2.5 billion international SKA project, which will provide radio telescopes to record radio waves from across the universe.

Late last year, the state government committed $20 million towards the new International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), designed to help WA win the project.

The centre, located at UWA, is an equal joint venture with Curtin University.

A spokesperson for UWA said the university was not clear where exactly the $80 million federal funding will go or whether it relates to the ICRAR.

A location decision for SKA will be made in 2009-10.

The federal government was vague on specific details of the new $80 million centre, but stressed that it was to help Australia's chances of hosting the project.

Its believed the centre will be a collaborative effort between both federal, state governments, UWA, Curtin and CSIRO.

A spokesperson for the federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research did clarify to WA Business News that the new centre was for super computing purposes.

The ICRAR will focus on astronomy.

ICRAR director Professor Peter Quinn said the federal funding boost was a major boost for WA's SKA bid.

"The new centre will provide ICRAR will a major increase in computing and data handling capabilities," Mr Quinn said.

"The new centre will enable ICRAR and CSIRO to produce and distribute world-class scientific data and results from the Australian SKA Pathfinder.

"The new centre will complement and work closely with the ASKAP Murchison Support Facility being developed by CSIRO in Geraldton."

Additionally, the federal budget allocated $20.5 million towards a new Engineering Pavillion Complex at Curtin.

The complex is designed to create a vibrant, student-focused learning centre for engineering students and will combine leading edge technology with a sustainable focus.

Curtin was the only WA university to receive funding from the Tuesday night's federal budget.

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