The Destination Earth (DestinE) is a flagship initiative of the European Commission to develop a highly accurate digital model of the Earth on a global scale.This model will monitor, simulate and predict the interaction between natural phenomena and human activities. It will contribute to achieving the objectives of the twin transition, green and digital as part of the European Commission’s Green Deal and Digital Strategy.
DestinE will unlock the potential of digital modelling of the Earth system at a level that represents a real breakthrough in terms of accuracy, local detail, access-to-information speed and interactivity. The initial focus will be on the effects of climate change and extreme weather events, their socio-economic impact and possible adaptation and mitigation strategies.
DestinE will use unprecedented observation and simulation capabilities of DestinE, powered by Europe’s HPC computers and AI capacity. Thanks to this we will be better prepared to respond to major natural disasters, adapt to climate change and predict the socioeconomic impact. The initiative also represents a key component of the European strategy for data by consolidating access to valuable sources of data across Europe.
Users of DestinE, including non-scientific experts, will be able to access and interact with vast amounts of Earth system and socio-economic data in order to:
- Perform highly accurate, interactive and dynamic simulations of the Earth system, informed by rich observational datasets: For example focusing on thematic domains of societal relevance such as the regional impacts of climate change, natural hazards, marine ecosystems or urban spaces.
- Improve prediction capabilities to maximise impact. For example to protect biodiversity, manage water, renewable energy and food resources, and mitigate disaster risks in a changing world.
- Support EU policy-making and implementation. For example, to assess the impact of existing environmental policies and legislative measures and support future evidence-based policy-making.
- Exploit the potential of distributed and high-performance computing (HPC) and data handling at extreme scale. For example through an interactive platform that will host complex digital twins and comprehensive toolkits to develop and operate analytics-based models, with full access to vast amounts of diverse data.
Furthermore, Europe’s industrial and technological capabilities will be strengthened through the simulation and observation of the entire Earth system and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for data analytics and predictive modelling, among other means.
Key Components of the Destination Earth system
DestinE will allow users to access thematic information, services, models, scenarios, simulations, forecasts and visualisations. Underlying models and data will be continuously assessed to provide reliable and actionable scenario predictions. DestinE will initially serve public authorities and will gradually open up to a larger range of scientific and industrial users and the general public to spur innovation and develop new applications and services.
The main components of the DestinE system are:
The Core Service Platform
The core service platform provides a user-friendly entry point for DestinE users. The platform will provide evidence-based decision-making tools, applications and services, based on an open, flexible, and secure cloud-based computing system. It will coordinate data, cloud and HPC infrastructures and provide access to an increasing number of Digital Twins as they become gradually available via related European Commission and/or national efforts.
The platform will make available relevant AI tools, extreme-scale data analytics and Earth-system monitoring, simulation and prediction capabilities. At the same time, it will provide dedicated resources to DestinE users, allowing them to customise the platform, integrate their own data and develop their own applications.
The procurement of the platform and the associated DestinE service operations will be the responsibility of the European Space Agency (ESA).
The Data Lake
The data lake brings together pre-existing European data holdings from Copernicus, the data holdings of the three Destination Earth implementing entities (ESA, EUMETSAT and ECMWF) and other sources, like the Internet of Things (IoT) and socio-economic data. It also integrates the new data that will originate from the Digital Twins, creating a coherent and self-standing DestinE data space. It will provide access to the data needed for the Digital Twins and the Core Service Platform operations. And it will host user data, shared with the DestinE user community while supporting near-data processing to maximise performance and service scalability.
The Data Lake will be operated by the the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
The Digital Twins
Digital twins are digital replicas of the highly complex Earth systems, developed by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
They are based on a seamless fusion of real-time observations and high-resolution predictive modelling in the thematic areas, starting from the extreme events and climate change adaptation.
The long-term goal is to integrate additional digital twins such as on oceans or biodiversity creating a comprehensive digital twin of the Earth. The digital twins of DestinE will provide users with tailored access to high-quality knowledge for user-specific scenario development that can support evidence-based decision-making.
The core service platform, the data lake and the first digital twins will become operational through support from the Commission’s Digital Europe Programme.
Horizon Europe will provide research and innovation opportunities that will support the further development of DestinE. There are synergies with other relevant EU programmes, such as the EuroHPC Joint Undertakingand the Space Programme, and related national initiatives. The European Commission coordinates the DestinE initiative in close collaboration with the Member States, Associated Countries, scientific communities and technology experts.
The initiative implemented by three entrusted entities:
On 15 December 2021, the European Commission and the three implementing entities signed Contribution Agreements to start the first phase of implementation until mid-2024. They will continue to work together to implement DestinE for the next 7 years.
Active stakeholder engagement is vital for the success of DestinE. It is only through stakeholders guiding its development that DestinE can live up to our vision, and build a solution for user community needs. To this end, a co-design approach has been adopted bringing on boarding policy, science and digital communities through the following two stakeholder engagement pillars.
Open Stakeholder Dialogue
An open stakeholder dialogue will be established during the first phase (2022-2024) of the activities. A wide range of contributers will have the opportunity to guide the development of the DestinE system by providing their feedback on their needs and requirements, and sharing their experience working and interacting with DestinE outputs.
These stakeholders include:
- Member States
- Public sector users
- Research and Development Partner
- Entities managing operational applications
A dedicate forum for exchange, the DestinE User eXchange, will facilitate detailed discussions of policy users at EU and national level. Discussions should focus on the application potential, requirements and gaps of the DestinE services.
The DestinE User eXchange will meet on a regular basis, with the first meeting held on 15 February 2023. Further opportunities for engagement and co-development will evolve over time, in line with the maturity of the system.
DestinE stakeholders can also help us to identify relevant synergies with national and European initiatives and services.
Targeted User Partnerships
Another pillar of the DestinE stakeholder engagement is the targeted user partnerships. The aim of these partnerships is to design and implement sustainable services throughout the lifetime of DestinE.
Key technology partners and commercial actors can bring their capacity and knowledge to design and implement novel capabilities of DestinE in a way that corresponds to users’ specific needs. Similarly, we can build strong technology partnerships to define and design DestinE services through collaboration with other digital twin initiatives funded under Horizon Europe.
Current examples of these research and development projects are:
- the Biodiversity digital twin
- the Intertwin
- the digital twin for GEOphysical Extremes
- the digital twin of the Ocean.
Additional thematic Digital Twins will be granted in the next Horizon Europe work programme (2023-2024) to enrich DestinE ecosystem.
DestinE will be developed gradually through the following key milestones:
- By mid - 2024: Development of the core service platform, the data lake and the first two digital twins on extreme natural events and climate change adaptation.
- By 2027: Further enhancement of the DestinE system and integration of additional digital twins and related services.
- By 2030: A ‘full’ digital replica of the Earth.