Artist’s impression of the full Square Kilometre Array at night (c) 2016 SKA Organisation under CC3.0The Unit4 Non-Profit team has announced that it has won the contract to deliver ERP software to the SKA Organisation. The Square kilometre Array (SKA) project is a multinational endeavour to create the worlds largest radio telescope across two sites in South Africa and Australia.

It will eventually consist of thousands of antennas spread across remote areas of those two countries. In Africa, the plan is to extend it across multiple countries.

To date there are eleven member countries participating in the endeavour. The hosting countries are Australia, South Africa and the UK. Other member countries are, Canada, China, India, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden. Spain was the latest to join in June this year.

The SKA organisation is based in Manchester and overlooks the Jodrell Bank observatory. It needed an ERP solution that would manage both its finances and the complex project finances of the SKA project. SKA will implement the Unit4 Business World ERP solution. Once implemented it will provide real-time information on project and finance data from across the globe.

This will allow it to respond in a timely fashion to the challenges that a project of this scale will present. It is estimated that this first phase will cost €650 million alone. This includes the costs to build the vast radio telescope and the supercomputing power required to crunch the vast data sets the radio telescope will provide. This is a project pushing the boundaries of technology. In 2013, when it was established, it knew that compute power would not be available for another two years.

Keeping the project on track

The project is currently on track. The International Telescope Manager recently celebrated the completion of the nervous system of the Observatory, the Telescope Manager. Maurizio Miccolis, TM Project Manager for the SKA Organisation commented: “The work done by the consortium has been outstanding. We can now take it forward into the next phase of the SKA, which brings us one step closer to construction.”

That phase required an international engineering consortia to complete. It consisted of 12 companies, and 500 engineers and scientists across 20 countries. This is the scale of project that the Unit 4 software will manage going forward.

Colin Greenwood, Head of Administration at the SKA Organisation commented: “This project is set to test the limits of human engineering and scientific endeavour over the coming decades. With so many people and organisations invested in the SKA project, we require technology that supports our fully transparent approach to collaborative working.

“The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development. We must manage the constant stream of data which informs the strategic decision making required to ensure our success. Unit4 Business World will provide detailed reports and automate much of the necessary administration, freeing our team to focus on more value-adding work.”

What does this mean

This is a huge win for the Unit4 team. It is comparable, if not potentially bigger, than that the implementation of Infor at CERN. The telescope itself is not due to come into operation until the mid 2020’s. By then expect to have heard far more about the SKA project as it comes closer to reality. If Unit4 can leverage the growing awareness of the project it will boost its brand across the globe.



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