Advancing ocean research through data and technology

Seven months ago, we announced the launch of the AI for Earth EU Oceans award, an initiative aimed at equipping European research organizations focusing on ocean-related challenges with AI tools and Microsoft Azure compute resources to further their work. Now, just time for Earth Day, Microsoft is proud to announce that the first five recipients of the award have been selected.

The first grantee is the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, which is investigating how, when, and where warming-induced changes in plankton community impact food webs and the global carbon cycle, helping regions that rely on marine ecosystems to adapt to global change.

Meanwhile in France, our second grantee IMT Atlantique is developing data-driven and learning-based schemes for the modelling, analysis and reconstruction of ocean atmosphere dynamics using satellite remote sensing data. Improved models offer the potential to better understand Earth’s weather and climate, and the impact of these changes on oceans, from currents to CO2 concentrations.

Across the Channel in the UK, the National Oceanography Centre will be supported in the work they are doing to build a computer model that can predict ocean wave characteristics and help improve climate change projections.

Microsoft will also support the work of Dutch research institute Deltares. Their work integrates models for ocean physics into a predictive data service that can be used, for instance, to develop early warning systems for floods or to reduce the impact of oil spills.

Our final recipient is the National University of Ireland, Galway, where researchers are using a stereo imaging system to better evaluate rogue waves in open ocean conditions.

As company striving to empower people and organizations globally to thrive in a resource-constrained world, Microsoft is excited to be supporting these projects. All five align with the UN Sustainable Development Goal to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, as well as the European Commission’s ambition to strengthen international ocean research and ensure better international ocean governance.

Despite spanning almost three-quarters of our planet’s surface, Earth’s oceans are incredibly fragile and sensitive to the slightest changes. Ensuring their wellbeing is of the utmost importance for humankind – and not just because they provide half our oxygen. As the European Commission has pointed out, we can only benefit from the so-called ‘blue economy’ – which has represents 5.4 million jobs and generates almost €500 billion a year – if we safeguard the natural resources which underpin this potential.

AI for Earth was born from the premise that technology can transform how humans respond to the changes we see in our natural world. That’s why we expanded the AI for Earth program in December 2017 with a new $50 million commitment to increasing access to our game-changing AI tools and technology.

All the recipients of the AI for Earth EU Oceans award are doing vital work to advance research and greater understanding about our oceans, so as to better understand, manage and mitigate the risks to our planet’s richest ecosystem. We hope that the tools and resources we provide can further these efforts, to the benefit of all humanity.

Adina Braha-Honciuc
Director Sustainability Policy, Europe

Adina Braha-Honciuc leads Microsoft’s Sustainability and Environment Policy in Europe.