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Preparing for MID-SKA receiving concepts in South-Africa

Final Report Summary - MIDPREP (Preparing for MID-SKA receiving concepts in South-Africa)

Through exchange of (in)experienced researchers and facilitating knowledge exchange at events like workshops, MIDPREP aims to develop a common view on design related aspects for new radiotelescopes and specifically toward relevant elements toward the Square Kilometre Array
("SKA"), in the areas of advanced radio-optics, calibration, ICT, processing and technology views vis a vis science aspects and (possibly "green") designs on MID-SKA in the Karoo.
Although the technologies and software developed may be applied mainly in SKA-Phase 2, it has become clear that the activities bear relevance to ongoing activities for the present Phase 1 of the SKA as an immediate result of the broader knowledge exchange made possible through MIDPREP. A total of 82 different persons became involved from the three S.A. Universities (Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University, University of Cape Town) and from ASTRON (Neth.) and OSO/Chalmers (Sweden) as participants in MIDPREP during (mostly) shorter stays e.g. in the context of workshops facilitated by project.
The new developments in MIDPREP fits into the larger picture to invest in preparations for the wideband feeds and mid-frequency array radio telescope in Africa, and the goals of the African European Radio Astronomy Platform (see Contacts were therefore kept with
AERAP throughout the project also in connection to other radioscience developments and other countries (see other sections).
While not all under control of MIDPREP in the complex context of the international SKA program, the project facilitated excellent progress to all areas of the key intended objectives and at points achieved even somewhat unexpected successes regarding "exchanges: For example, in the area of staff exchange, one of ASTRON's staffmembers is now doing his PhD program at Stellenbosch University, one of that university's postdocs joined ASTRON last year and this year (2016) one postdoc from Rhodes University joined the University Groningen as a postdoc and one of ASTRON staffmembers has recently been appointed as an "extraordinary associate Professor" at Stellenbosch University. Lastly, one of ASTRON's senior staff members joined SKA-S.A. in 2016.

For reasons of clarity, the five objectives are repeated here followed by relevant highlights in this reporting period:
i. to exchange knowledge within the context of the MID-SKA concepts planned by SKA in South Afica by developing a shared vision on needs and requirements relevant to site induced design aspects.
ii. to exchange knowledge on the Mid-frequency SKA receiving concepts, specifically Aperture Arrays ("AA's") and Ultra-Wideband Single Pixel Feed Receiver ("UWSPFR") concepts.
iii. to advance radio-optics, calibration, ICT (networks, beamforming) and processing aspects and technology views and designs including initial ideas on materials, low power and "green design" through exchange of knowledge and research staff.
iv. to exchange and dissiminate ideas and to communicate results more widely with all partners and colloborators through organizing three annual workshops in the context of AA's and UWBSPFR's
Originally these were to be held in the Netherlands, South Africa and Sweden respectively thereby representing the countries of the participants.
v. to establish common views on collaborative and solidifying steps involving Industry to ensure adequate and relevant knowledge and input and a smooth transition to the next (engineering) phase which will have a greater emphasis on implementation.

The project had a kick-off meeting at the occasion of the international IEEE Africon 2013 in Mauritius in September and a introduced itself at a dedicated URSI workshop at the same premises in conjunction with Africon (see: and e.g.

At the following execution stage, MIDPREP progress reported in a broader context through international workshops that were combined with specific SKA-related progress workshops meetings to enhance, strengthen and broaden the MIDPREP objectives:

(a) The first MIDPEP workshop "Technology meets science" was held in March 2014 at ASTRON in the Netherlands (see: and was combined with an AAMID workshop which followed in subsequent two days.
(b) The second MIDPREP workshop "Preparing for the SKA" marked the results just after Midterm stage.
It was held in April 2015 in Portugal in Aveiro (see: rather than in Sweden for optimization and other reasons i.e. enabling connections with endeavours for renwable energies, and
(c) The third workshop "Preparing for SKA Widefiled Science and Engineering" in March 2016 South Africa (see:
All presentations given at the (combined) workshops are available through these URL's

Other conferences and meetings were used as platforms for communication about MIDPREP progress. For example on various SKA platforms, the URSI Science Symposium in China in 2014, various Science and Technology conferences in this reporting period and most recently just after MIDPREP finished, in the school on Calibration techniques namely in October 2016. Also, conferences in S.A. were attended with a broader scope e.g. to seek African routes in connecting Radio Astronomy infrastructures with Space related infrastructures (so called Dual Use facilities) and in the area of renewable energies for the SKA in collaboration with Portugal.

It turned out that MIDPREP had to modify its approach of longer exchange periods as planned (i..e. less people for a longer period) toward shorter stays. This had the great advantage that more persons could become involved and become aware of MIDPREP as exchange program and secondly, more knowledge exchange platforms like conferences and meetings could be enabled through MIDPREP.
Over the whole of MIDPREP, this led to 82 different persons whose visits were enabled through MIDPREP thus greatly increasing its impact and scope. For example, this allowed participation from OSO/Chalmers & ASTRON to a high resolution workshop organized through the University of
CapeTown in S.A.
Also, the planned manmonths for exhange from ASTRON and Chalmers had to be reduced in favour of increasing the cohorts for the S.A. Universities. This allowed a much increased number of ER end ESR's from S.A. to ASTRON and OSO/Chalmers and their presence at "local" meetings etc.

The unexpected demise of a key person at Chalmers University led to a significant reduction of planned exchanges to Chalmers University in 2016. This and the fact that some long stays did not materialize e,g, one person joint the SKA office in S.A. reduced the personmonth spend in this reporting period. This and the slower start in the first period, resulted overall in a reduction of the original planned total of 154personmonth to 118pmonth of which 71,4pmonth have been assigned in this second period.
Nonetheless and with these slight adaptations mentioned earlier, we have witnessed an enormous increase in standing and expanding relationships between the partners which did not exist before MIDPREP as enabling program.

We noticed that all partners expressed at several occasions their great appreciation of this program from which we deduce that such a program while moderate in itself, proved extremely important enabling significant progress in long-term colloborations.
In a wider context, a number of points of some significance are also relevant to note here:
(i) The many contacts with S.A. lead also to consider the the involvement of S.A. industries in the endeavours of the Aperture Array developments. Most notably, this holds with respect to EMSS who showed interest in an ongoing relation with ASTRON and partners.
(ii) The contacts with Portugal lead to emphasize the use of renewable energies on the site partly synergetic with another FP7 program called Biostirling for SKA ("B4S") in which ASTRON and other (non-S.A.) partners are involved. This connection resulted in two conference publications.
(iii) The visits to S.A. resulted in discussions about the dual-use of research infrastructures (i.e. for research in Space and Radio Astronomy) which carries weight in the wider African context. The MIDPREP coordinator moderated one of the discussions on this issue.
(iv) The context of the African European Radio Astronomy Platform was felt relevant for the ongoing developments and dicussions were held in Brussels as well as in S.A. how best to stimulate long-term collaborations beyond MIDPREP. These discussions are ongoing in which elements of the handling of and technologies for massive science data computing and big data in RadioAstronomy are relevant also for other e.g. medical applications.
(v) Some of the persons whose exchanges were enabled through MIDPREP, intent to take positions in e.g. the SKA-S.A. Office and other countries e.g. in Ghana. The latter obviously is of great value for further human capital development in this field (and potentially other fields). At the MIDPREP workshops, also çollegues from Mauritius were invited thus broadening the collaborative "stretch".
(vi) In parallel to the course of developments for MIDPREP, relations were intensified between the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO) and the S.A. Science Foundation (NRF) , the research collaboration of the Big Data and High Performance Computing between IBM and ASTRON in the Netherlands and the equivalent endeavour in S.A. were renewed and the Dutch Minsitry of Science and Education ("OCW") signed a broader science collaboration protocol with the South African Department of Science and Technology. It was clearly felt that the contacts made with and exchanges through MIDPREP were important for these achievements. It is interesting to note that in this time frame also the Swedish-S.A. collaborative agreement was signed.

For the MIDPREP project, details about contacts, workshops etc. can now to be found through: