Introducing the European Digital Twin of the Ocean initiative to the marine community during the European Maritime Day

The European Maritime Day (EMD) took place in Brest, France, on 24-25 May and gathered Europe’s maritime community to outline joint actions concerning maritime affairs and the sustainable blue economy. The European Commission shared its ambition for a European Digital Twin of the Ocean (DTO) through a stand organised by Mercator Ocean International (MOi) and the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), implementers of the DTO core infrastructure. The stand showcased the different innovative research projects that are contributing to its development, namely EDITO-Infra and EDITO-Model Lab, as well as Iliad and Blue-Cloud 2026.

European Maritime Day Digital Twin Ocean
From left to right: Remy Denos (DG MARE), Alain ARNAUD (MOi), Pierre Bahurel (MOi), Mary Malicet (MOi), Zoï Konstantinou (DG MARE), Sadauskas Kestudis (DG MARE)

European Maritime Day: the place where “Ocean Leaders Meet”

The European Maritime Day is an annual event bringing together professionals from businesses, governments, public institutions, NGOs, academia, and EU citizens interested in the sea. Dynamic and highly interactive, the event allows to stay informed about various topics related to the blue economy and the marine environment, and to explore strategies for progress. The EMD showcases numerous influential speakers, thematic sessions, stakeholder workshops, and pitch sessions.

The 2023 edition of the European Maritime Day was organised by the European Commission, the City of Brest, the Region of Brittany, the department of Finistère and the General Secretariat for the Sea.

European Maritime Day Hervé Berville Pierre Bahurel
Hervé Berville, State Secretary for the Sea in the French government and Pierre Bahurel, Director General of MOi. MOi is fully committed to serving the Mission Ocean ambitions on behalf of the EU and France, together with the European ocean science community

Building a European Digital Twin of the Ocean

The European Commission’s commitment and strategic vision to build a European Digital Twin of the Ocean was a key theme of the event. This initiative was launched and announced by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen at the One Ocean Summit in February 2022, in the very same city where EMD2023 took place. Supported by EU Mission Ocean “Restore our Oceans and Seas by 2030”, it aims to create “an interactive and dynamic digital representation of the ocean for better decision making and sustainable action”.

The DTO will consist of a comprehensive platform that integrates various European-funded projects contributing to the EU’s vision. The EDITO-Infra and EDITO-Model Lab projects, selected under the EU Horizon Europe research programme, are the first building blocks of the platform.

About EDITO-Infra and EDITO-Model Lab

EDITO-Infra, managed by MOi and VLIZ, will develop the DTO platform consisting of two main components: a data lake and the engine. This platform will enhance, merge, and harmonise essential service components of existing EU ocean observing, monitoring, prediction, and data programmes and services such as the Copernicus Marine Service (implemented by MOi) and EMODnet (mainly operated by VLIZ). The DTO platform will serve as a host for the deployment of multiple sectoral and local digital twins, including pilot applications from Horizon Europe Iliad project and the Mission Lighthouse projects focused on European seas.

Throughout this process, MOi plays a central role in constructing the DTO operational core infrastructure and fostering collaboration within the EU ocean science community to achieve this ambitious objective. In parallel, MOi is also leading EDITO-Model Lab, a sister project to EDITO-Infra, aiming to develop the next generation of ocean models, combining artificial intelligence and high-performance computing, to be integrated into the DTO platform. Stakeholders will find digital tools, data, and information for ‘focused applications’ that refer to the Mission Lighthouses and the sustainable Blue economy, including simulations of different ‘what-if scenarios’ to find solutions to natural and man-induced hazards.

From the stand dedicated to the DTO initiative

Next steps: the Digital Ocean Forum 2023

This year’s Digital Ocean Forum (DOF) will take place on June 15 in Brussels; it will be hybrid, and open to the public. The DOF will bring together experts, stakeholders, policymakers and interested citizens to discuss the co-design and co-creation of the European Digital Twin of the Ocean.

The event is organised by the European Commission in collaboration with MOi and the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), it aims to collaborate with stakeholders to define the goals and potential achievements of the DTO. Ethical considerations will be discussed, along with exploring ways to address challenges related to climate change and biodiversity loss using the DTO. The event will also examine how the DTO can contribute to policymaking and decision-making for a sustainable blue economy.

The Digital Ocean Forum will also facilitate forward-looking discussions on how the DTO can serve ocean communities and actors, how it should evolve, and the implications for policy and decision making.

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