Unique Public Private Partnership in high tech systems.

Published by the editorial team, 13 April 2012

Public private partnerships get an international dimension. On April 5th, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the South-African National Research Foundation, IBM Netherlands and IBM South-Africa signed a memorandum of understanding on joint research into advanced ICT targeted at radio astronomy. Last week, it was announced that ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and IBM started a collaboration in the DOME project. Thanks to the NWO council of Physical Sciences, South-Africa is now connected as well to this ambitious research program.

In the so-called "Square Model" for public private partnerships, both a public and a private party in each country contributes to innovative research. Louis Vertegaal, director of NWO Chemical and Physical Sciences: "International collaboration is essential both for the research and for the development of new markets and services. In a global economy we can no longer consider public private partnerships on a national scale only." The four parties signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria in the presence of Ambassador André Haspels.

In the coming years, South-African scientists and engineers are constructing the MeerKAT telescope array in the Karoo area. MeerKAT is an innovative telescope at Giga-Hertz frequencies, just as the Dutch LOFAR telescope is in the Deca-Hertz range. In DOME-SA, the computer architectures for MeerKAT will be used together with those of LOFAR to construct mathematical design models for low-power supercomputers. Marco de Vos, Managing Director of ASTRON: "Such models are essential for the next generation of radio-telescopes, but also for the next generation of data centres and many other applications. Broadening this research in DOME-SA enlarges its applicability considerably." DOME-SA will also research and prototype ruggedized, high density, highly parallel computers suitable for operation in extreme environmental conditions. A third component of DOME-SA involves work into development of new algorithms for signal processing focused initially on improving the quality and efficiency of radio telescopes, but with wider potential application in other domains.

In South-Africa, the research program (code named DOME-SA) will be embedded in the South-African SKA Project Office. They developed MeerKAT, just as LOFAR is a pathfinder for the SKA. Jasper Horrell, DOME-SA Team Leader: "This collaboration fits very well in the ambitions of South-Africa to strengthen our international networks and intensify our collaboration with industry."

For NWO, this new type of international public private partnership is an important step in contributing effectively to the Dutch Top sector policy. With DOME-SA, there now is a clear example showing the strength of this model, that can be used as a showcase for further collaborations.

Meer information:

• NWO, Communications: t.: +31 (0)70 344 07 41, e.: voorlichting@nwo.nl

The four parties, NWO, NRF, IBM The Netherlands and IBM South Africa signed the agreement at the Dutch embassy in Pretoria, in the presence of the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Andre Haspels, and the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST).

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