SA MeerKat To Become World’s Largest, Most Sensitive Radio Telescope


SA Meerkat – the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, says South Africa’s Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor.

To ensure that, the Research, Development and Support Programme of the Minister’s portfolio will transfer R693 million to the National Research Foundation to ensure the completion of SA MeerKat.

Minister Pandor made this disclosure on Tuesday in Cape Town while she briefed the media ahead of the tabling of her department’s R7.5 billion Budget Vote for the 2017/18 financial year.

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“The SKA will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope,” she said. And, added that the “key economic benefits from this investment will be the leveraging of foreign direct investment from the SKA Organisation for construction costs of phase one of SKA.”

According to the Minister, her department would invest in human capital development through the Research Development and Support Programme in the coming years.

Specifying that the programme is a source of research funding for higher education institutions, Minister Pandor revealed that 4,315 researchers were awarded research grants through programmes of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the department in the 2015/16 financial year.

“This figure is expected to increase to 4 500 in 2017/18. In 2017/18, no fewer than 32,792 pipeline postgraduate students will be awarded bursaries through the NRF/DST funded programmes,” added the Minister.

More-so, she affirmed that her department will provide for South Africans, access to internationally comparable research and innovation infrastructure.

She said: “Between 2017/18 and 2019/20, 90 new research infrastructure grants will be awarded in response to the needs across the innovation value chain…

“The total available broadband capacity provided through the SA National Research Network will be increased to 3,500 Gigabits per second…”

That, Pandor said, will assist in providing more efficient transmission of data to all research and academic institutions.

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Furthermore, Minister Pandor proclaimed that the department would ensure greater economic and social returns for intellectual property generated from public funds.

R36 million she said, will be transferred to the National Intellectual Property Management Office to ensure that publicly funded intellectual property is contributing to the quality of life in South Africa.

“The Department aims to position bio-innovation as a mechanism for achieving government’s industrial and social development goals, guided by the department’s 2013 Bio-economy Strategy.

“Under the Technology Innovation Programme, R156 million is allocated for bio-innovation in the health, agricultural and industrial biotechnology sectors,” she disclosed.