A national UK programme in AI and digital twins to address the biodiversity and climate crisis

The Alan Turing Institute (Turing) is leading a nationwide effort to develop new methods in AI and digital twinning technologies to address the UK’s environment and sustainability (E&S) concerns.


Turing has identified four long-term E&S missions: to automate biodiversity monitoring to enable nature recovery; deliver localised environmental predictions to mitigate the impacts of climate change; optimise infrastructure for sustainable use of natural resources; and model interventions to achieve sustainable cities and regions for a net zero world.

The proposed programme will bring together a diverse group of UK leaders and experts in AI, environment, sustainability and policy to refine these missions and develop a national five-year roadmap.

Turing said that the programme aims to undertake ‘transformative’ environmental research and innovation to avert ‘climate and biodiversity catastrophe’.

The institute has received a grant of £5m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to develop the national programme, and will act as the central hub for UK-wide research activities.

Dr Scott Hosking, senior research fellow, The Alan Turing Institute and British Antarctic Survey, said: “To reverse the biodiversity and climate crisis, it is paramount that we develop and deploy scalable solutions as swiftly as possible.

“We firmly believe that AI and digital twinning technology will play a pivotal role in this, through the fusing of multimodal environmental data - from satellite sensors to surface sensors – and utilising these new tools to inform decision making and enabling effective action.”

The programme has been split into separate workstreams, to ensure an effective tackling of the UK’s E&S concerns, including initial deep stakeholder mapping and engagement to develop, refine and launch the E&S missions.

Further workstreams include scaling-up environmental research from the Turing's AI for Science and Government programme, developing digital twins of controlled environment agriculture, and establishing physics informed data-driven national capability in weather prediction.

The programme will involve collaboration with national laboratories to establish and augment a collective understanding, including: British Antarctic Survey (BAS), UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK CEH), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), National Oceanography Centre (NOC), UK Met Office, and Rothamsted Research.