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SKA Project Director’s Update: July 2021

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16 July 2021

One of the many compelling things about the SKA project is that it will create new opportunities for a broad range of Australian businesses, each with something unique to contribute. This includes the valuable knowledge and experience local businesses will bring to building, operating and maintaining Australia’s SKA telescope.

Following industry consultation in May and June, the SKA Observatory (SKAO) and Australian partners have been developing clearer guidance for all potential tenderers on Mid West WA and Wajarri Yamaji participation in SKAO contracts. A range of measures have been put in place to guarantee and further encourage Mid West and Wajarri Yamaji involvement in SKA construction work, for the mutual benefit of all parties. Where Wajarri Yamaji businesses and people are based in the Mid West, they would be relevant to both Mid West and Wajarri Yamaji measures.

The SKAO has released 2 new market surveys today, which are available at the SKAO’s procurement portal. Another market survey, available only to Mid West businesses, is due for release later this week. Information about the new market survey opportunities, and the main measures to encourage local participation, are outlined below. We also expect to provide more detailed guidance materials on Mid West and Wajarri Yamaji participation in the coming days.

Favourable assessment criteria

Australian SKA infrastructure contracts, and other procurements earmarked for delivery at the Australian site, will include assessment criteria for Local (Mid West) and Wajarri Yamaji participation. Tenderers will need to complete a local and Wajarri Yamaji participation plan, which will form part of the winning tenderer’s contract.

Tenders will be evaluated on technical criteria and price (for the Infrastructure contracts the split is 70% technical and 30% price). Mid West participation and Wajarri Yamaji participation will each be worth 10% of the technical component, noting that Mid West-based Wajarri Yamaji participation would contribute to both criteria.

Infra 1 (Spatial): de-bundling and local content requirement

The Infra 1 (Spatial) package has been released today, with 3 bits of work split out from this package to increase opportunities for business of all sizes (see Infra 7, below). This de-bundling is in response to some of the concerns raised during industry consultation. The remaining scope of this package is for power and fibre networks, fibre cable assembly, ground preparation and the construction of access tracks, which is best delivered collectively.

This package has a requirement that at least 30% of the value of the contract, excluding major materials and equipment, is delivered by Mid West WA businesses. The favourable assessment criteria will encourage higher levels of local content and more Wajarri Yamaji participation.

This is one of 3 Australian contracts that will include this minimum local content requirement. The other 2 being:

  • the temporary accommodation camp package that is progressing to the pre‑qualification questionnaire stage
  • a contract for deployment of the antenna stations, which is due to go to market survey later this year.

Infra 3 (Buildings)

The Infra 3 (Buildings) package was also released today. This package covers the high-specification buildings that will accommodate the data processing equipment and staff offices on the telescope site. The buildings must provide the necessary electrical services, communications and controlled indoor environment, while incorporating RFI shielding and specified equipment to minimise radio frequency interference.

Given the specific requirement of this package, the bulk of work is expected to take place pre‑fabricating the buildings off-site, before assembling at the telescope site.

Infra 7 (Main road and emergency air strip): limited to Mid West businesses, with mandatory Wajarri Yamaji participation

The Infra 7 (Main road and emergency air strip) package is expected to be released later this week. The contract is for one of 3 work packages split out from the Infra 1 (Spatial) package. It is being made available only to Mid West businesses and requires Wajarri Yamaji participation. The favourable assessment criteria will reward tenders that make this participation significant.

This package comprises 2 work elements: a 5km unsealed main access road, and a 1200m-long emergency airstrip.

The 2 other work packages that were split out from the Infra1 (Spatial) package are due to be procured later in the year. One (for a fibre optic connection) as a separate infrastructure contract, and another (relating to the interface with the antenna stations) as part of the antenna station group of contracts.

Express interest or access support

Expressing interest through market surveys is a compulsory step in SKAO procurements. Suppliers that register interest will be sent a pre-qualification questionnaire. Then, shortlisted companies will be invited to tender for the work packages.

To find out more about each opportunity, and to express interest, access the SKA Observatory Procurement Portal.

Australia’s SKA Industry Liaison Officer, Anthony Holzwart, supports Australian businesses to access procurement opportunities with the SKA. This includes providing information about opportunities, supporting businesses through the tendering process, helping match small and medium businesses to access partial-scope opportunities, and more.

Please email Anthony at ska.ilo [at] industry.gov.au for information about support he can provide.

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