Transparent & Accessible Seas and Oceans: Towards a Digital Twin of the Ocean
Fit for purpose and sustained ocean and sea observations are essential for understanding and forecasting ocean behaviour. Measures to protect marine social-ecological systems and support the blue economy are based on these insights and forecasts. 10-20 years ago, marine data from these observations were difficult to find, only accessible through long and sometimes costly negotiations and hard to put together to create a complete picture because of different standards, nomenclature and baselines.
For the past two decades, the European Union invested in policies and infrastructures to enable this sustainability and fitness for purpose. Its Member States, together with neighbours, have created an unrivalled marine data, modelling and forecasting infrastructure, essentially based on EMODNet – the European Marine Observation and Data Network - gathering in-situ and reference ocean data in Europe and the Copernicus marine environment monitoring service (CMEMS) providing European and global operational ocean forecasting and ocean climate services based on the assimilation of these in-situ ocean observation into numerical ocean models. They are supported by European Research Infrastructures and by major R&D projects to deploy ocean observatories at sea and collect marine data (e.g. Eurofleets+, EuroArgo, Jerico, Danubius, EMBRC, EMSO, ICOS, LifeWatch, etc). Cooperation and the principles of free and open access, interoperability, and “measure once, use many times”, were largely promoted, as well as the added-value demonstrated through Copernicus, the European Research Framework Programmes FP7 and Horizon 2020, Blue Cloud and EMODnet activities.
The Digital Twin of the Ocean concept is to make a step further by integrating all European assets related to seas and oceans (data, models, physical ocean observatories at sea) with digital technologies (cloud, super HPC capacities, AI and data analytics) into a digital component that represents a consistent high-resolution, multi-dimensional and (nearly) real-time description of the ocean. It will contribute to the Commission’s Green Deal and Digital Package commitments to develop a very high precision digital model of the Earth (Destination Earth initiative).
AI and analytics, thematic or sectorial models and computing power will transform data into knowledge. They will facilitate co-creation and inter-disciplinary approaches between natural sciences, humanities and social sciences for the co-construction of methods, expertise and applications to support decision making. This digital view of the ocean will enable a multi-angle perception of the ocean: its physics, chemistry, geology, biology as well as the environmental and socio-economic impact of human activity.
It will be a simulator to test scenarios that deal with different evolutions of the ocean environment. It will empower citizens, governments and industries to collectively share the responsibility to monitor, preserve and enhance marine and coastal habitats, while supporting also a sustainable blue economy (fishing, aquaculture, transport, renewable energy, etc.). It will enable measures to increase resilience to climate change, improve disaster risk management, develop spatial plans, report on the state of the environment, coastal or offshore activity and measure its impact.
Proposals for such a development should demonstrate their usefulness with regard to Green Deal priorities (e.g. impact of ocean climate scenarios on aquaculture and fisheries, impact of sea-level rise and extreme waves on coastal risks, pollution monitoring and scenarios for mitigation and remediation strategies, and maritime spatial planning). It needs to fulfil all of the following criteria: deliver break-through in accuracy and realism, represent optimal synergy between observations and models; fully integrate downstream impact sectors of the socio-economic areas addressed in their test case; include a rigorous handling of quality and confidence information.
Proposals should address:
- The development of an ocean digital twin at high resolution including the ocean model representation and the integration of all available datasets into a single digital framework compatible of Destination Earth infrastructure and technologies (cloud, euroHPC, AI-ready standards, datacubes, …). It should build on existing infrastructures and relevant Horizon 2020 and R&D projects to achieve this integration at short-term (e.g. CMEMS, BlueCloud, EMODNet, portals from ERICs, IMMERSE, ESA Ocean Science Cluster);
- The configuration of it as a simulation environment built on a consistent multi-variable multi-dimensional description of the ocean consistent from estuaries to the coast and to open ocean, from the surface to the seabed and allowing a digital exploration in time and space of the ocean physics and biodiversity according to different scenarios. It should provide an integrated, timely and persistent description of the ocean including at least physics, biogeochemistry, geology and human activities;
- The integration of data from existing or new automated sensors and autonomous mobile and fixed platforms, additional structured and unstructured data, alternative sources such as private companies data, citizen science or historic data collected before the digital age (chemical, physical, biological and ecological) and delivered through EMODnet and Copernicus;
- The implementation of data and model outputs in state-of-art standards and formats (INSPIRE, FAIR, ontologies, …) compliant with their exploitation by applications and appropriate user interfaces based on big data and artificial intelligence technologies;
- The development of what-if scenarios to validate the representativeness of the digital ocean simulator in “real conditions of use” by configuring different ocean conditions and exploiting AI/data analytics tools, on concrete cases in local or regional sea basins.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 12 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. In line with the Union’s strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, international cooperation is encouraged.
The action will deliver a digital interactive framework based on digital technologies compatible of Destination Earth and the Digital Package including an digital ocean simulator based on a high-resolution numerical model of the ocean, including available ocean observation datasets in Europe and digital analytic toolboxes to configure the digital ocean simulator and to access what-if scenarios.
This will enable:
- Complementing the core European existing operation ocean forecasting and ocean climate services provided by Copernicus to European public, scientific and private users, with a simulation capacity that will enable the plug-in of vertical applications based on innovative solutions (sectorial methods, coupled models, statistical approaches, assimilation, ensembles, massive computing, deep learning, …) to support science-driven policies implementation;
- Moving towards a European Ocean Observing System, fully integrated with multidisciplinary observatories of estuarine, coastal and marine environments and socio-ecological systems, and promoting shared data management strategies (infrastructure development, data standardization, sharing, availability, access, interoperability, visualisation and use of data according to the FAIR principles).
- Support science-driven approaches to policies implementations by users that reinforce conservation and ecosystem-based management of marine habitats/green infrastructure, improve the planning and management of marine areas, and safeguard productivity and biodiversity of marine ecosystems and how this is influenced by the river-to-sea interaction;
- Increase citizen engagement, taking into account cultural and emotional aspects, through increased awareness and understanding of the dynamics, interactions and evolution of seas and oceans and their role in our well-being and survival, and promoting bottom-up actions, empowering citizens in innovative co-designed services and new project designs where citizens' opinions are considered from the initial stages;
- Encourage and enable the infusion of ‘non-scientific data streams’, in a coordinated way, through citizens engaged in data gathering, and through joint efforts from a community composed of users of the sea, including private companies, public authorities, social innovators, researchers, citizens and policy makers;
- Support industry to develop new business models and opportunities in ocean data and related services.
- Facilitate the operationalising of long term observing systems and contribute to the objectives of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
- Eligible countries: described in Annex A of the Work Programme. A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects.
- Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in Annex B and Annex C of the Work Programme.
The call opens 22/09/2020 and the deadline for submission is 26/01/2021.
Participants will be informed on the outcome of the evaluation 5 months from the deadline for submission.
For more information please access the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme webpage here.