NEWS / Blog / How Green Data can support the UN Sustainable Development Goals


19 AUG 2019


Dr Simon Gardner explores how data can support sustainable policymaking agendas


he focus of this year’s EIC Green Data Conference is very timely. The Delivery Plans recently published by UKRI contain an unprecedented level of focus on data-reliant initiatives. This extends from enhancing future digital technologies, to the ‘digital aid’ agenda to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

From a NERC perspective, environmental science has long understood the data revolution. Forecasting and climate modelling have driven the need for ‘big data’ and the evolution of HPC, while Earth Observation data has been exploited for decades. The continued growth of communication systems and bandwidth, coupled with advances in miniaturisation and battery technologies, provides new potential to visualise processes in the environment at all scales. This puts digital capacity right at the heart of the drive to deliver leaps in understanding in environmental science and the formulation of solutions.

By harnessing the power of supercomputing, we can create detailed virtual environments to simulate alternative futures, opening up the exploration of options for environmental regulation, management and investment. With autonomous platforms we can extend our reach in hostile environments, from the polar regions to the edge of space, collecting vast data sets more efficiently and sustainably.

Digital capacity [is] right at the heart of the drive to deliver leaps in understanding in environmental science and the formulation of solutions Dr Simon Gardner, NERC

With advances in battery technology, miniaturisation and wireless communications, we can add ‘nowcasting’ to our forecasting capability to enable decision-making based on real-time feedback from the environment. One of our key priorities is to deliver the £10.4 million ‘Constructing a Digital Environments’ programme, to integrate technological advances in order to monitor and predict the natural environment at high resolution and enable more effective decision-making. At the same time, we are also investing in the development of a Environmental Data Service to support the user community, and in an array of supercomputers to provide access to key data storage and processing services.

The Green Data Conference will hopefully play an important role in bringing together representatives from the research, business and policy communities to discuss how green data can be used to underpin a more integrated view of the environment, and how this can be used to drive new business models and more sustainable policy making agendas.

Dr Simon Gardner is head of digital environment at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Find out more about what will be covered at the 2019 Green Data conference.

Simon  Gardner

Simon Gardner

Head of Digital Environment