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We present the design and development of the electronic multi-beam radio astronomy concept (EMBRACE), a demonstrator that is part of the European contribution towards the square kilometre array, which is currently being designed by the global radio astronomical community. One of the design goals of EMBRACE is to demonstrate the applicability of phased array technology for use in future radio telescopes. The EMBRACE system will ultimately consist of two stations, the largest of which comprises over 20,000 elements and has a physical area of about 160 m2 . The antenna system, covering the 500-1500 MHz frequency range, is designed as a dual polarized system, however only the signals for one polarization are processed. To obtain a cost effective design, RF analog beam-forming is performed on tile level close to the radiators. The demonstrator is designed to provide two independent beams such that different parts of the sky can be observed simultaneously. First results from part of the array are presented and discussed. The results show that the complete data path is functional. Since the design resembles a large regular contiguous array, all coupling can be taken into account in the embedded element patterns. The array factor therefore suffices to describe the scanning of the array reducing significantly calibration complexity compared to, e.g. sparse, random or more irregular arrays. This is confirmed by the first array factor measurements, that were done using a novel technique that does not require calibration of the array. The first measurements on an astronomical source, the Sun, indicate that the system noise temperature lies between 104 and 118 K, which is reassuringly close to the design target of 100 K.