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AERAP recognized for its efforts in promoting partnerships between Africa and the EU at SA-EU Summit

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August 1, Cape Town: Leaders of South Africa and the European Union, at the Sixth South Africa-EU Summit, held in Pretoria on 18 July 2013 have welcomed the efforts of the African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) in promoting scientific partnerships between Africa and Europe. This followed the organisation of an AERAP Stakeholder Workshop as an official side event to the Summit on 17 July in Cape Town, hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO.) The AERAP workshop brought together more than 40 radio astronomers and other science and industry representatives from Africa and Europe to discuss enhanced scientific cooperation and future radio astronomy partnerships between Africa and Europe. 

The importance of science and technology cooperation, particularly in terms of radio astronomy, was reflected in the conclusions of a joint communiqué issued following the South Africa-EU Summit. In their communiqué, the South African and EU leaders (the Summit was attended by the Presidents of South Africa (Jacob Zuma), the European Commission (Jose-Manuel Barroso) and the Council of the European Union (Herman Van Rompuy) noted that science and technology cooperation “continues to be a flagship of successful bilateral cooperation between South Africa and the EU. This is evidenced by successful cooperation in large-scale initiatives such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).”

The Summit communiqué further stated that in “the domain of radio astronomy (SKA), we look forward to exploring ways to support the implementation of the global SKA project and further cooperation on the African-European Radio-Astronomy Platform (AERAP).”  The Summit also “welcomed the efforts by the AERAP to promote partnerships” between Africa and Europe, specifically for its contribution to leveraging research infrastructures for human capital and socioeconomic development. The South African and EU leaders noted the “exciting opportunities” presented by radio astronomy for mutually beneficial research and innovation collaboration, including the contribution of research infrastructures to human capital and socio-economic development.

The creation of AERAP in 2012 as a bi-regional stakeholder platform was a direct 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.

Over the past year AERAP’s focus has been on the development of the “AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation”, which will present a comprehensive agenda for advancing radio astronomy partnership between Africa and Europe. The development of the Programme has received strong support from an Alliance of Members of the European Parliament committed to assist AERAP.  Prominent scientific institutions such as South Africa’s National Research Foundation have also endorsed the document.

The AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation seeks to mobilize AERAP’s key stakeholders on both continents to join forces in advancing scientific cooperation, human capital development and, where appropriate, leverage the socio-economic benefits of radio astronomy investments.  The Programme identifies opportunities for cooperation in thematic priorities such as scientific research cooperation and instrumentation development, research infrastructure investments, ICT and big data, renewable energy solutions for radio astronomy, human capital development and astronomy as tool for science education.

For each thematic area, the AERAP community in the Framework Programme defined several strategic objectives and a number of key actions which describe concrete cooperation initiatives.  These key actions range from training programmes for engineers and technicians, to the development of cutting-edge receiver technology, to a study on power and energy requirements of radio astronomy installations.

The workshop in Cape Town aimed to share with the African radio astronomy community the outcomes of a similar consultation held in Brussels in June 2013 and to obtain their input on the Framework Programme and the implementation of the proposed key actions.

Preceding the Workshop on the Implementation of the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation held in Brussels on 18 June 2013, a meeting was held at the European Parliament where several Members of the European Parliament expressed their support for the objectives of the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation.

Host of the June event, Irish MEP, Emer Costello declared, "I welcome the conclusions of the Summit and the opportunity they bring to advance AERAP. I look forward to working with the Presidency and the Commission as well as our counterparts in Africa and South Africa to consolidate the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation."

AERAP will be present at an event of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), "Large Scale Science Projects: Europe-Africa Connects", which will take place in Mauritius on 10 and 11 September 2013. A further series of stakeholder engagements will take place during the remainder of 2013. The implementation of initiatives proposed in the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation will start in 2014.


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Editor’s Note

Sixth South Africa-EU Summit

South Africa hosted the 6th SA-European Union Summit on Thursday July 18 2013, in Pretoria under the theme: "Job Creation Through Inward Investment". The theme of the Summit was in response to the diverse demands of South Africa's National Development Plan.

Further information: http://www.dirco.gov.za/docs/2013/sa-eu_summit0715.html



The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (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 new 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


Recommendations of the 1st Workshop on the Implementation of the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation (18 and 19 June, Brussels):

The 1st Workshop on the Implementation of the AERAP Framework Programme for Cooperation participants reviewed key actions (cooperation initiatives) proposed for each thematic priority of the framework programme.

In the Framework opportunities for African-European radio astronomy cooperation are explored under eight thematic priorities: Research infrastructures; Instrumentation, research and development; Support for global projects; Human Capital Development for radio astronomy; ICT and Big Data; Renewable energy for radio astronomy; Astronomy as a tool for science education and Public outreach.

AERAP Workshop participants identified two initiatives as potential flagship projects for AERAP. These are:

  • Support for the establishment of an African VLBI Network (AVN) through education and training programmes for astronomers, engineers and technicians organised within the context of Africa-EU cooperation. Within the context of European support for the AVN, cooperation could also focus on areas such as capacity development for big data management and the development of renewable energy supply for AVN infrastructures.
  • Development of a wide-band, mid-frequency aperture array demonstrator through African-European cooperation including scientific training which could support preparations for Africa’s hosting of these components in the 2nd phase of the Square Kilometre Array.

Workshop participants felt that these potential projects offer rich potential for mutually beneficial Africa-EU cooperation both within the context of advancing scientific knowledge generation and supporting capacity building including research infrastructure development.

In addition to these two initiatives, the workshop participants also enriched and refined the content of other actions proposed in the AERAP Framework Programme. Some actions were merged in order to create greater efficiency and focus while some new proposals were added to fill gaps identified, e.g. training courses for staff managing research infrastructures. Overall, there was consensus that the current draft of the framework programme represents a comprehensive as well as focused agenda for cooperation.

The workshop also identified numerous possibilities for cooperation and synergies between AERAP and other initiatives; these include RadioNet (with regard to researcher and training), EU-Hands on Universe and EU Universe Awareness (with regard to the thematic priority “Astronomy as a tool for science education”). These links will be crucial for the success of AERAP since the platform aims at building on existing initiatives to advance African-European radio astronomy cooperation as efficiently as possible.


The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

SKA is a global science and engineering project led by the SKA Organisation, a not-for-profit company with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Thousands of linked radio wave receptors will be located in Australia and in Southern Africa. Combining the signals from the antennas in each region will create a telescope with a collecting area equivalent to a dish with an area of about one square kilometre.

Members of the SKA Organisation are Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Sweden and United Kingdom. India is an associate member.

For further information: please contact William Garnier, Chief Communications Officer of the SKA Organisation (w.garnier@skatelescope.org)

or visit the website of the SKA Organisation: www.skatelescope.org