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AERAP present at Horizon 2020 ICT-16 Big Data networking day

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Brussels, 9 January 2015: The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) will be represented at the Horizon 2020 ICT-16 Big Data networking day taking place on 16 January 2015 in Brussels. 

AERAP will deliver a presentation during the event, informing the participants about the Platform’s activities and support actions, aiming to connect the members of the African and European radio astronomy communities with the consortia preparing proposals in response to the Horizon 2020 calls for proposals.

The overall aim of the event is to inform and provide guidance to prospective applicants preparing project proposals in order to facilitate sharing of ideas and experiences. It will be a unique opportunity for the participants to network and to find suitable partners for their projects. AERAP is, thus, committed to support the participation of the radio astronomy community in this process, given the community’s significant expertise related to big data management.

The activities supported under the Horizon 2020 ICT topic contribute to the Big Data challenge by addressing the fundamental research problems related to the scalability and responsiveness of analytics capabilities (such as privacy-aware machine learning, language understanding, data mining and visualization). Special focus is on industry-validated, user-defined challenges like predictions, and rigorous processes for monitoring and measurement.

The ICT-16 Big Data networking day is expecting to welcome participants from around 40 different countries, both within and outside of Europe; including representatives from universities, research and innovation institutes, national ministries, private companies, and associations.

AERAP will seek to deliver an important contribution to the Horizon 2020 ICT-16 Big Data networking day, by demonstrating the role of science, technology and innovation within the broader development agenda, whilst at the same time enabling mutually beneficial cooperation for all parties. Overall, AERAP aims to enable win-win cooperation between Africa and Europe with significant long-term benefits for Europe, particularly in the areas of research and innovation.     

As a stakeholder platform bringing together industry, academia and the public sector, AERAP is designed to implement the European Parliament’s Written Declaration 45/2011 on “Science Capacity Building in Africa: promoting European-African radio astronomy partnerships”. AERAP has over 30 participants primarily from Europe and Africa, including universities, scientific and research organisations, radio astronomy institutes and private companies.

The platform presents a comprehensive agenda for advancing the radio astronomy partnership between Africa and Europe by targeting AERAP’s key stakeholders in both continents in an effort to ultimately contribute to the development of radio astronomy infrastructure in Africa such as the planned Africa VLBI Network of interest to the European science community and the maximisation of the positive socio-economic side-effects. 

Radio astronomy collaboration cannot be understood solely in terms of advancing science and technology but also in terms of enhancing capacity building and infrastructure development within a developing society. AERAP promotes human capital development in Africa and Europe, which includes contribution to employment and economic development through technical training and education in radio astronomy – which includes several critical skills of strategic importance, e.g. related to big data. 

ICT is the backbone of modern radio astronomy and will enable radio astronomers to reveal some of the most extreme events in the universe. Due to improving observation capacities (advances in technology and larger instruments), the amount of data that radio telescopes collect is increasing dramatically and will soon reach the Exabyte/year level. These recent developments require new infrastructures, technologies and software for the capturing, processing, transporting and storing of data. These required infrastructures for radio astronomy will have a direct effect on the wider African economy and the related skills development will certainly benefit Europe.

According to Rui Aguiar, Professor at the University of Aveiro, “we are living in a world of Data, with some companies already exploiting the wealth of information collected on the web. ICT needs to step up to widespread economical exploration of Big Data, a task that requires the development of both human competences and the technology infrastructure able to transform this sea of information into social and economic value. Radio astronomy is a great opportunity to push both human and technological developments associated to Big Data, providing scientific value while developing the pillars required to support a Big Data transformation into our ICT technology practices, both at the European and African sides.” 

As argued by Declan Kirrane, the co-initiator of AERAP, “full exploitation of big data’s potential for economic impact and return requires an innovative and well-trained ICT skill-base… the need to develop this large skill-base in these technologies is a challenge common to both Africa and the EU…. radio astronomy can help play a part in meeting this challenge.” Big Data is an area where mutual assistance for common benefits is of particular importance.

As the leader of the SKA “Science Data Processing” development, Professor Paul Alexander of Cambridge University, commented “we already work very closely with Africa on the development of the highest performance streaming processing systems, AERAP will greatly assist both Africa and Europe in meeting the challenging goals for Big data”. 

Daan du Toit, Deputy Director-General at the South African Department of Science and Technology commented that “Big data is a priority focus area for South Africa in our ICT research and innovation partnership with the European Union, given the strategic importance of radio astronomy in our country and indeed elsewhere in Africa, we can only applaud AERAP’s efforts to promote cooperation in this critical area.” 


Media Enquiries

Declan Kirrane

ISC Intelligence in Science 


+32 (0) 2 88 88 114



Simona Ondrejkova

ISC Intelligence in Science 


+32 (0) 2 88 88 107




Editor’s Note

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 also enables effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy.

Further information on AERAP: www.aerap.org