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New Flagship programme protects water resources through digital twins.

‘The Flagship is a welcome and an important opening for increasing the effectiveness of the water sector. It promotes the digitalisation of the water sector, opens doors to young researchers, and serves as an ecosystem for companies in the field as well as for societal actors’, notes Harri Koivusalo, Professor of Water Resources Engineering at Aalto University.
Digitaaliset vedet -lippulaiva

The Water and Environmental Engineering research group at Aalto University is a key player in DIWA, the Digital Waters Flagship. The DIWA Flagship is led by the University of Oulu (Director: Björn Klöve), and it is part of the Flagship Programme of the Academy of Finland, which supports high-level research and the extensive economic and societal effectiveness that is derived from it. 

Water is essential for all life, and its sustainable management secures its availability both for people and the environment. The aim of the Digital Waters Flagship is to develop into a cluster of top research and an innovation ecosystem producing solutions that support decision-making in society, laying foundations for a digital revolution in the water sector.

Sustainable solutions to major challenges facing society

Climate change, biodiversity loss, damage to the environment, and inadequacy of water resources are among the greatest challenges facing society. These are also intertwined in many ways. The Flagship community produces information to back up societal decision-making and to create new possibilities for companies for product and service development to solve these challenges. 

The goal of the Digital Waters Flagship is to digitally represent water resources – to create digital twins of waters to allow modelling of water resources and their use, and to support decision-making on surface and ground waters. The digitalisation of water resources improves the management of the distribution of water procurement and use, as well as safety measures against floods or droughts, for example. Digital water management also helps decision makers to balance the management goals across sectors from energy to agriculture and forestry.

Digital modelling is challenging, because real-time information is needed on the climate, soil, and waters over areas extending over hundreds of kilometres in the territories of multiple countries. The Flagship aims at narrowing the water cycle information gap by integrating dispersed national research and monitoring data from catchment areas, using the so-called ‘source to sea’ principle. Combining measurements from the air, land, and waters helps create new points of view, enabling the emergence of new innovations as well. ‘Digital solutions created in DIWA will also be linked with planning and decision-making, strengthening sustainable management of water resources’ says Assistant Professor Marko Keskinen at Aalto University.

Finland is at the hub of climate change, as the changes are expected to be faster in northern areas. These changes affect seasonal hydrology and the volume of material transport. ‘Our research, which encompasses many fields, and the knowledge of our cooperative partners promote the sustainable management of water resources in Finland and internationally. The Flagship strengthens Finland's position as a leading research environment and developer of sustainable solutions’, observes Assistant Professor Eliisa Lotsari at Aalto University.

The Flagship also includes leading Finnish research and education units of the water sector

The Water and Environmental Engineering research group at Aalto University is involved in the DIWA Flagship. At Aalto, the principal investigator for the Flagship is Assistant Professor Eliisa Lotsari and in addition to her, all the professors involved in the research group: Harri Koivusalo, Marko Keskinen, Matti Kummu, Anna Mikola and Olli Varis. Of the Aalto University researchers, Lotsari, Koivusalo and Keskinen are involved in leading three out of the five research themes of the Flagship. In addition, Aalto is responsible for several different thematic tasks in the Flagship.

Well over 200 cooperative partners will be initially involved in the Digital Waters Flagship. In addition to the University of Oulu, the University of Turku, Aalto University, the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI), the Finnish Environment Institute, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the cooperation also involves many domestic and international partners. This group includes international research organisations, domestic research infrastructures, more than 100 private companies as well as actors in the public sector, and civic organisations.

Further information: Academy of Finland selected four new Finnish Flagships (> Academy of Finland website)

The Flagship Programme of the Academy of Finland creates skills and knowledge for the future, as well as sustainable solutions to challenges facing society. The Flagships support cooperation with business and other parts of society, combined with a background of capacity for transformation, and a strong commitment of organisations.

The application round that has now been completed is the fourth time that the Academy of Finland selects Flagships. The applications are evaluated by an international panel of experts. Applicants were required to have knowledge and skills in research, a pioneering approach in their own fields, as well as diverse effectiveness in research in different areas of society. Specific decisions, including funding involved, are expected in January.

Marko Keskinen

Marko Keskinen

Associate Professor
T213 Built Environment
Matti Kummu

Matti Kummu

Associate Professor
T213 Built Environment
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