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Construction begins on headquarters for the world’s largest radio telescope

SKA HQ groundbreaking

From left to right, Prof. Grahame Blair from STFC, Prof. Philip Diamond, SKA Director-General, Prof. Colin Bailey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester and Councillor David Brown, Cheshire East Council Deputy Leader, marking the groundbreaking of the SKA Global Headquarters at Jodrell Bank.

SKA Global Headquarters, Jodrell Bank, UK, Friday 28 April – A special ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the Square Kilometre Array Global Headquarters (SKA GHQ) took place today, Friday 28 April to mark the official start of building work on the expansion of the central office for the world’s largest radio telescope.

The ground-breaking event, held on the SKA premises at The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank site was attended by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, Professor Colin Bailey; the Director-General of the SKA Organisation, Professor Philip Diamond; and representatives from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Cheshire East Council.

Director General of the SKA Organisation, Professor Philip Diamond said: “On behalf of the SKA Board of Directors and our member countries, I was delighted to welcome our distinguished guests to this ground-breaking ceremony as their backing has been essential in securing this investment. In the next ten years, the SKA Global Headquarters will become a real nexus for radio-astronomy internationally, and is a fantastic continuation of the proud history of radio-astronomy at Jodrell Bank.”

The 4,200m2 SKA GHQ will eventually be home to more than 135 staff from more than 13 countries, tasked with managing the construction and operations of the Square Kilometre Array telescopes, located in Southern Africa and Western Australia.

The finished telescopes will be several times more sensitive and hundreds of times faster at mapping the sky than today’s best radio astronomy facilities.

Equipped with a 10Gbit/s connection to the national research network, the building will include some 18 meeting rooms equipped with state-of-the-art videoconferencing to work with teams spread over 20 time zones, as well as a Council Chamber which can be converted into a 159-seat auditorium for scientific conferences and public talks.

With a 40% target reduction in water consumption, 25% of construction materials from recycled or reused content, electric vehicle charging points as well as dark-sky compliant lighting and a highly efficient heat pump system, the building is also aiming to achieve a BREEAM target of ‘Very Good’.*

Cheshire East Council Deputy Leader, Cllr David Brown, said: “To have this amazing, international, ground-breaking research centre headquartered here in Cheshire East is a historic moment and we congratulate the University and the team at Jodrell Bank for proposing to host this prestigious project.”

“Hosting the SKA global headquarters is a big coup for Cheshire East, and will no doubt benefit this area hugely in terms of jobs, kudos and economic growth. It falls squarely within the Cheshire Science Corridor and Northern Powerhouse concepts, and this is why we are deeply committed to it.”

Home to what will be the only inter-governmental organisation in the North West, the SKA GHQ will contribute to the local economy through goods & services expenditure and staff household spend. It will also help put Cheshire on the international map by receiving high-level dignitaries from the SKA’s member countries, as well as thousands of scientists and engineers from around the globe working on the project.

The bid to make Jodrell Bank the headquarters of the SKA was backed by the UK Government via the Science and Technology Facilities Council, The University of Manchester and Cheshire East Council, as well as Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The £16.5 million new SKA GHQ due to open in June 2018 is funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (£9.8M) via the STFC, The University of Manchester (£5.7M) and Cheshire East Council (£1M).

The new building will be on the Jodrell Bank site, currently operating the iconic Lovell Telescope and the UK’s e-MERLIN telescope array which is part of the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester. The Observatory was established in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell and has since played an important role in a number of fields, including the study of meteors, quasars, pulsars, masers and gravitational lenses, and was heavily involved with the tracking of space probes at the start of the Space Age.

As such, Jodrell Bank has been a leader in radio astronomy for over 70 years and is now on the UK shortlist for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Its accompanying Discovery Centre currently attracts around 165,000 visitors each year, including 22,000 school pupils on educational visits.

Professor Colin Bailey, Deputy President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “The University of Manchester is incredibly proud to have the SKA headquarters on the Jodrell Bank site.  It complements the world-class research already taking place at Jodrell Bank and, more than 70 years after Sir Bernard Lovell founded the Observatory, this ground-breaking ceremony shows that the site is still at the forefront of expanding our understanding of the Universe.”


Notes to editors

Artist impressions of the building, photographs, interviews and B rolls from the event can be downloaded here.

Follow progress on the SKA Global Headquarters:


Media enquiries to:

William Garnier
Director of Communications, Outreach and Education
SKA Organisation
Mob: 07814908932

Jamie Brown
News and Media Relations Manager
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 2758383
Mob: 07887 561318


* BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It addresses a number of lifecycle stages such as New Construction, Refurbishment and In-Use. Globally there are more than 561,100 BREEAM certified developments, and almost 2,262,800 buildings registered for assessment since it was first launched in 1990. The “Very Good” rating places the SKA GHQ in the top 25% of UK new non-domestic buildings. 


About The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is the UK’s largest single-site university with 38,600 students and is consistently ranked among the world’s elite for graduate employability.

The University is also one of the country’s major research institutions, rated fifth in the UK in terms of ‘research power’ (REF 2014). World class research is carried out across a diverse range of fields including cancer, advanced materials, addressing global inequalities, energy and industrial biotechnology.

No fewer than 25 Nobel laureates have either worked or studied here.

It is the only UK university to have social responsibility among its core strategic objectives, with staff and students alike dedicated to making a positive difference in communities around the world.

Manchester is ranked 35th in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016 and 5th in the UK. The University had an annual income of almost £1 billion in 2015/16.

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About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by the SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.

Already supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – the SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope. Construction of the SKA is set to start in 2018, with early science observations in 2020.

Learn more about the SKA: