Sara Pittonet Gaiarin, Trust-IT Services, Blue-Cloud Project Coordinator

On the 20 and 21st of April the first Digital Ocean Forum took place in beautiful Paris, the first milestone of the very ambitious project initiated by Mercator Ocean International, the European Commission and the French Ministry of the Sea to design a virtual ocean running factory from science to private. 70 experts representing historic and new actors in the marine panorama gathered physically together to provide their input on accessing ocean data, ocean modelling, ocean intelligence, digital framework and international collaboration. The inputs were passed to the Ministries, DG representatives of the European Commission and policy makers at the High Level Policy forum, ratifying the official start of the Digital Twin of the Oceans. 


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, leveraging on existing European science and assets, to provide consistent high-resolution, multi-dimensional descriptions of the ocean: the vision and ambition of the European Open & Public Digital Twin of the Ocean built on European existing assets and innovation is now much more clear. Over the 20 and 21st of April 70 experts representing historic and new actors in the marine panorama convened physically in Paris to provide their input on the expectations for a Digital Twin for the Oceans by research users and society in general. 

I had the pleasure to join this event representing Blue-Cloud in the Working group dedicated to Ocean Intelligence, coordinated by Akrivi Kiousi (INTRASOFT) and Arne Berre (SINTEF) and chaired by DG MARE Zoi Konstantinou, bringing to the discussion the feedback and lessons learned from the creation of Blue-Cloud valuable ground-base services at the e-Infrastructure level (such as the Data Discovery and Access Service to find and retrieve datasets from 9 marine federated data providers, or the cloud computing and analytics facilities available in the Blue-Cloud Gateway) as well as the 12 thematic services released as part of the Blue-Cloud Virtual Labs, real-life research-based scenarios for biodiversity, genomics, environment, fisheries and aquaculture. I shared the experience with Blue-Cloud colleagues Dick Schaap, Technical coordinator of Blue-Cloud, joining the WG1 on accessing Ocean Data and new sensors, and Jan-Bart Calewaert and Kate Larkin from Seascape Belgium and EMODnet Secretariat.

The ambition of the DTO

The event clarified the very challenging technical ambition of the DTO: to provide seamless service in space (global to estuarial-coastal), time (instantaneous to decades, past, present and future), subsystems (human activity, air, sea, biota, sea bottom, coastal-land continuum), and marine economy sectors (market-wide, full value chain, sectorial digital service) through higher level data integration for sectorial applications and what-if scenarios.

The CORE-DTO will be a free and unrestricted infrastructure that will provide access to all ocean data, software and computational resources to enable increased knowledge and innovation. The infrastructure should be operational, sustainable and trustable, in other words a virtual ocean running factory from science to private. The CORE-DTO is a digital co-development and production environment to create products by multiple users.
From WG2 “Enabling Ocean modeling” outcomes, coordinated by Nadia Pinardi, UniBO

The data component is strategic to this vision, spamming data availability from different sources (satellite, observations, but also citizens contribution), accessibility (with questions still open about the extent to which data should be free and Open Access), interoperability by different actors and machines, and re-usability, in particular with respect to modeling capabilities that should guide the creation of forecasts and predictions that we need.

According to the EC, 3 key conditions for success:

  1. An inclusive community of European experts, ready to commit. The meeting in Paris it’s the first milestone of a DTO task force target to continue working in the medium-term 
  2. A forum for a direct dialogue between experts and policy makers. EU Mission Ocean can be the right framework for this
  3. A common goal: the core European DTO - based on European assets, delivering an operational public good service, supporting a diversity of twins (local, national, etc.)

The DTO will serve as pilot, by 2027 to then arrive, by 2030, at a complete digital replica of the planet as part of the Destination Earth (DestinE) programme lea by ESA, EUMETSAT and ECMWF.

Blue-Cloud as a founding pillar of the DTO

Within this infrastructure, Blue-Cloud is seen as one of the founding research components, offering e-infrastructure services (computing, storage, analytical, SSO, AAI and generic services to be orchestrated with a large variety of data resources), federated data (10M+ datasets and products from leading European marine data management infrastructures (COPERNICUS C3S, COPERNICUS CMEMS, ELIXIR-ENA, EMODnet, Euro-Argo, Argo GDAC, EuroBioImaging, EurOBIS, ICOS-Marine and SeaDataNet), and research intensive virtual labs. Blue-Cloud also offers an entry level to EOSC, where services and products can be exploited and used in the DTO and where an active community of research stakeholder is piloting Open Access services for cross-disciplinary purposes.

The DTO project is piloted by Mercator Ocean International, a global leader in digital oceanography selected by the European Commission to implement the Copernicus Marine Service for the flagship EU Copernicus Earth Observation programme. MOI is now becoming an Intergovernmental Organisation, with the endorsement of the French Government and other countries (decision taken during the One Ocean Summit on 11 February 2022). MOI is also a Steering board partner in the Blue-Cloud project.


Pierre Bahurel introducing the DTO Mission

Pierre Bahurel, Director General Mercator Ocean International, introducing the DTO Mission to mobilise strategic actors at the Digital Ocean Forum  

The DTO in practice, today.

Greetings from ParisAs per its ambition, the DTO will make ocean knowledge readily available to citizens and entrepreneurs. I would like to conclude with this picture, taken together with Delphine Lobelle, a beautiful early-career mind that together with her “Particle Trackers team” won the Blue-Cloud hackathon with their “SeaClearly” application developed within Blue-Cloud Virtual labs that provides recommendations for where to place aquaculture cages to decrease the probability of pollutants, and Luigi Ceccaroni from Earthwatch, an environmental charity that will exploit the AI applications via the recently funded ILIAD project to connect people with the natural world.