Members of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project have now announced their decision to site their permanent headquarters in the UK. This is particularly good news for UK academia and high-tech industries, which have both played a key part in the development of the system - and the project continues to be a showcase for the combined strength of industry and academia.

We've been working with the SKA for the past eight years (see and and are delighted to see the continued success of the project, which remains fascinating to work on and continues to exhaust superlatives - it's a true privilege to be part of it. The SKA will be the world's largest scientific instrument, and to realise it the SKA organisation is calling on the world of radio astronomy to provide the science case and the system design, and industry to develop a physical design that can be manufactured on a huge scale to meet the constraints of budget and timescale while meeting demanding performance requirements for a lifetime of operation in a harsh environment

We're experts in sensing systems, antenna design and the application of first principles to challenging requirements but, for any project of this scale, no one organisation can be more than a small part of the machine. This is one of the greatest engineering challenges ever conceived - in the same category as the Manhattan project, ITER, the LHC etc. Keeping the project moving requires skills beyond the technical and requires a highly collaborative approach to project management. Not many projects reach the dizzying scale and complexity of the SKA. But they all have their challenges - and applying a knowledge of best practice, honed on projects like this, brings benefits to all our clients.

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Gary Kemp
Gary Kemp is a physicist with more than 30 years' experience in industry developing complex systems. He leads a number of large industrial and scientific projects at Cambridge Consultants, including its SKA work.