What is the European Digital Twin of the Ocean?
A digital twin is a digital representation of real-world entities or processes. Digital twins use real-time and historical data to represent the past and present and numerical models to simulate future scenarios.
The European Digital Twin Ocean was announced by President von der Leyen at the One Ocean Summit in Brest in February 2022. Its ambition is to make ocean knowledge readily available to citizens, entrepreneurs, scientists and policy-makers by providing them with an innovative set of user-driven, interactive and visualisation tools. This knowledge will help design the most effective ways to restore marine and coastal habitats, support a sustainable blue economy and mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Leveraging on existing European science and assets, the European DTO will provide consistent high-resolution, multi-dimensional descriptions of the ocean. This includes its physical, chemical, biological, socio-ecological and economical dimensions, with forecasting periods ranging from seasons to multi-decades.
It will transform data into knowledge for everyone's benefit.
The European Commission has been investing about €10 million annually since 2021 to develop a core European Digital Twin Ocean, conceived as a public service and a public good. This complements the €19 million Iliad project, funded under the Green Deal Call for research proposals to pilot the DTO concept, as well as a number of research projects developing the background science.
This infographic explains what the digital twin of the ocean is, how it works and the things it will help us understand and do.
Building on existing assets
In the last decade, the European Union has developed core data infrastructures and ocean services such as
- Copernicus Marine Service (CEMEMS)
- Copernicus Data and Information access services (DIAS)
- European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)
They offer global and pan-European quality-controlled ocean observation data, forecasts, analysis and projections.
The European Commission now builds on those existing assets, connects them with similar systems focused on inland waters and further integrate the whole knowledge value chain, from observations to end-user applications thanks to the latest digital technologies.
To this aim, the European Commission has entrusted 2 main operators behind the CMEMS and EMODnet programmes, namely Mercator Ocean International and the Flanders Marine Institute, the develop the core infrastructure of the EU DTO: EDITO-Infra.
Importance to other policies and initiatives
The Digital Twin of the Ocean is a main element of the Digital Ocean Knowledge System under the EU Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters.
It is also a priority in many different initiatives such as the International Ocean Governance, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and the G7 working group Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative which the EU contributes to.
The European DTO, builds on the EU Digital Agenda,will be interoperable with Destination Earth, and will benefit from the upcoming initiative for Ocean Observation.
What can we use the Digital Twin Ocean for?
The Digital Twin Ocean is a place of digital co-creation, bringing together different disciplines and communities. Its uses are unlimited.
Researchers will be able to use the DTO to predict how climate change and human activity will affect marine ecosystems, such as the Posidonia meadows and tuna migration. It will help assess different management plans and choose the most efficient one to implement taking into consideration all parameters, including socio-economic ones.
Entrepreneurs will be able to use the DTO to plan activities at sea. For instance to optimally plan the siting of aquaculture farms, taking into account decadal predictions of salinity, plankton, currents and extreme heat events, with daily forecasting of oxygen, nutrients, nitrates or harmful algae blooms. This will optimise production and minimise negative impacts. The same approach would be of value to accelerate the implementation of marine renewable energies.
Local authorities will be able to use the DTO to test, among other things, the effectiveness of blue and green infrastructures resilient to sea-level rise tested on several scenarios.
Citizens will be able to contribute to biological and ecological observation campaigns (e.g. on plastics) to improve models and use these models for own purposes e.g. extreme weather events alerts, local jellyfish bloom predictions or safe and clean swimming spots.
How will it work?
The European Digital Twin Ocean will consist of a core DTO DTO providing as a baseline, a huge bulk of data, generic ocean models and AI processors as toolboxes, on top of which a multitude of tailor-made applications, or 'local twins' can be plugged in. These applications will answer individual priorities by and for public users and industry, for national, local or thematic policies or sector areas.
The core European DTO will be a public good, connecting the physical, biological and socio-economic dimensions of the ocean.
It will include
- big data, rooted in the ocean data space of the DTO: high volume and variety of data, with long time series, including data on human activities, real time access, all trustable, standardised and ready for latest big data analytics.
- scientific models representing all components of the ocean system, making state-of-the-art science and knowledge outcomes accessible and easier to combine, aiming at unlocking the unknowns through transdisciplinary scientific approaches and through predictions of possible future changes of the oceans.
- a single cutting-edge virtual collaborative environment. This digital space will allow everyone to use the digital backbone, the central access to knowledge, diversity of digital and artificial intelligence tools with a capacity to upload and share their own science and data, to revolutionise work practices and help them to make science-based, informed decisions.
The following related calls for proposal are open under Horizon Europe.
- HORIZON-MISS-2023-OCEAN-01-09: Roadmap towards the integration of inland waters into the Digital Twin Ocean
- HORIZON-MISS-2023-OCEAN-01-08: Integration of socio-ecological models into the Digital Twin Ocean
- HORIZON-CL6-2023-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-2: Integrated assessment and monitoring of emerging pollutants in the marine environment
- HORIZON-CL6-2023-CLIMATE-01-8: Closing the research gaps on Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) in support of global assessments
- HORIZON-CL6-2023-GOVERNANCE-01-11: Reducing observation gaps in the land-sea interface area
- HORIZON-CL6-2024-CLIMATE-01-6: Ocean models for seasonal to decadal regional climate impacts and feedbacks
The following related calls for proposal supporting the EU DTO are closed and grants have been, or are being, awarded:
- HORIZON-MISS-2021-OCEAN-05-01: Underlying models for the European Digital Twin Ocean
- HORIZON-MISS-2022-OCEAN-01-07: Integration of biodiversity monitoring data into the Digital Twin Ocean
- HORIZON-INFRA-2022-EOSC-01-03: FAIR and open data sharing in support of healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters
- HORIZON-CL6-2022-CLIMATE-01-02: Understanding the oceanic carbon cycle
- HORIZON-CL4-2022-SPACE-01-41: Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service evolution
- HORIZON-CL5-2022-D1-02-04: Supporting the formulation of adaptation strategies through improved climate predictions in Europe and beyond
- HORIZON-CL6-2022-BIODIV-01-01: Observing and mapping biodiversity and ecosystems, with particular focus on coastal and marine ecosystems
Related initiatives and projects
EU research projects
EDITO-Infra builds the EU Public Infrastructure backbone for the first European DTO by upgrading, combining and integrating key service components the Copernicus Marine Service (CMEMS) and the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) into a single digital framework that can be scaled up to an overarching knowledge system, interoperable with the Destination Earth.
EDITO-Infra will provide public access and use to the widest possible range of open ocean observation datasets, data products, hosting for new sources of data and will support accessibility to modelling capacities on Cloud, GPU or HPC. Additionally, it will provide a co-working environment with the objective of making ocean knowledge available to government, private sector, citizens, and scientific experts alike, enabling them to become partners in knowledge generation so that they assemble their own twins, for the pursuit of a healthy and productive ocean.
EDITO-Model Lab prepares the next generation of ocean models, to be integrated into the EU public infrastructure of the European Digital Twin Ocean (EDITO) to play with ocean configurations (what if scenarios). It will ensure as well access to required input and validation data (from EMODnet, EuroGOOS, ECMWF, Copernicus Services and Sentinels satellite observations) and to high-performance and distributed computing facilities (from EuroHPC for HPC and other cloud computing resources).
Funded under the Green Deal call for research proposals, Iliad (INTEGRATED DigitaL Framework FOR Comprehensive MARITIME DATA AND INFORMATION SERVICES). ILIAD aims to establish an interoperable, data-intensive, and cost-effective Digital Twin of the Ocean (DTO).
Blue-Cloud 2026 and AquaINFRA
Blue-Cloud 2026 and AquaINFRA contribute to the goals of the EU Mission "Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030”, and of the EU DTO, by connecting data on the marine and coastal environment, on biodiversity, and on the water cycle with the ‘Blue Economy.
Blue-Cloud brings together leading European marine data infrastructures and networks (SeaDataNet, EurOBIS, Euro-ARGO, ICOS, SOCAT, ENA, EMODnet, CMEMS) and e-Infrastructures (EUDAT, D4Science, WEkEO DIAS), allowing researchers to combine, reuse, and share quality data across disciplines and countries.
AquaINFRA enables stakeholders to store, share, access, analyse and process research data and information from their own discipline, as well as across research infrastructures, disciplines, and national borders. In particular, it will address the needs of linking the marine and freshwater domains, under a ’single hydrosphere’.
Immerse develops the next generation of numerical high resolution ocean circulation model based on the NEMO ocean model, to support developments of configurations to address regional climate change, interactions with coastal seas, better representation of the arctic, complexity of ocean mesoscales and sub-mesoscale, leveraging on enhanced digital high-performance computing.
EU programmes and initiatives
Destination Earth aims to develop a high precision digital model of the Earth to model, monitor and simulate natural phenomena and related human activities under a Green Deal implementation perspective.
Copernicus Marine Service
The Copernicus Marine Service provides free, regular and systematic authoritative information on the state of the Blue (physical), White (sea ice) and Green (biogeochemical) ocean, on a global and regional scale.
Copernicus DIAS – WeKEO
Copernicus data and information access service is a digital infrastructure with digital services that provides enhanced access to Sentinel data and Copernicus information products from all services into a digital environment co-located with cloud and HPC computing resources to facilitate the uptake of Copernicus.
European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)
The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) consists of more than 120 organisations aggregating, harmonising and sharing openly marine data, products and metadata. It makes these fragmented resources more available to public and private users which rely on quality-assured, standardised and harmonised marine data that are interoperable and free of restrictions on use.
International programmes and initiatives
DITTO is a programme of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Mission of DITTO is to develop and share a common understanding of digital twins of the ocean, to establish best practices and standards, and advance a digital framework for DTOs to empower ocean professionals from all sectors around the world including scientific users, to effectively create their own digital twins.
G7 Future of the Seas an Oceans Initiative
G7 Future of the Seas an Oceans Initiative: The G7 FSOI initiative offers a mechanism to address the challenge of strengthening and sustaining ocean observations through the coordinated actions of the 7 leading nations in ocean observing plus the EU, who together fund more than half of global ocean observations. Enabling Digital Twin Ocean Capability is one of the priorities identified by the G7 FSOI group.
All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance
A coalition of Atlantic countries and stakeholders willing to strengthen cooperation in marine research and innovation issues along and across the Atlantic Ocean.
European Space Agency
ESA also has a number of activities supporting the development of digital twins for the Earth.
The EC-ESA Earth System Science initiative aims to establish an effective cooperation to jointly advance Earth System Science and its contribution to respond to the global challenges through flagship initiatives amongst which ocean health, polar and biodiversity.