What will AI do for the environment

AI beacons for the environment, climate, nature and resources

Artificial intelligence has a wide range of potentials to contribute to climate and environmental protection: It can, for example, promote the expansion of renewable energies, facilitate the switch to sustainable mobility or make agriculture more environmentally friendly. The Federal Environment Ministry is therefore promoting projects with the “AI lighthouses for the environment, climate, nature and resources” initiative that use their digital know-how and creativity to overcome ecological challenges.

Around 300 project outlines were submitted and the first projects have now been approved. Find out more about the projects and their ideas for more climate and environmental protection:

About the funding program

With the “Artificial Intelligence Strategy”, the federal government is pursuing the goal of making Germany and Europe a leading location for AI technologies. At the same time, a positive innovation climate should be created that uses digitalization for people and the environment and limits risks.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) is therefore promoting the development and testing of the use of AI-based innovations in order to cope with current ecological challenges. As AI lighthouses, these projects should be exemplary for environmentally, climate and nature-friendly digitization. This includes projects that

  • contribute to the achievement of climate protection goals,
  • Preserve biodiversity,
  • promote environmentally friendly agriculture, sustainable production, sustainable consumption or sustainable mobility,
  • Support circular economy,
  • Improve access, transparency and utilization of environmental data,
  • Reduce energy and resource requirements,
  • Set protection standards for our health,
  • promote environmentally-oriented programming of AI algorithms or
  • Strengthen the transfer of knowledge and the social discourse on complex data-driven systems.

The KI lighthouses funding program is aimed at business, science and civil society. The participation of start-ups, SMEs and social entrepreneurs is expressly desired. The individual actors can also contribute as associated partners.

Two independent funding lines address AI projects at various stages of development:

Call for Participation "AI for Environmental Protection"

We are looking for creative and innovative ideas for ecological challenges. The procedure enables applicants with or without funding experience to contribute their skills and ideas. Based on a short sketch, the best concept ideas are given the opportunity to work on the detailed elaboration of the idea for five months. The most promising projects are given the opportunity to implement their concept afterwards.

The call is aimed primarily at interdisciplinary teams. We want to broaden the community that deals with the opportunities digital technologies have for the environment, and encourage them to also take unusual approaches.

The deadline for submitting the idea profiles for funding line 1 expired on September 15, 2019. Selected projects will be informed after evaluation by the BMU and requested to submit an application.

Application orientation and foundation

With the KI Fund, the BMU wants to promote the development, use and communication of AI-based applications for the environment, climate, nature and resources. It is aimed at projects with a higher degree of maturity and proven broad impact ("beacon character"). This includes projects of various types:

  • Feasibility studies,
  • Applied research and experimental development,
  • Measures for scaling and practical application of innovative AI processes,
  • Capacity building (e.g. advice, networking, demonstration and knowledge transfer offers).

The projects will run for a maximum of three years, depending on the budget available.

The deadline for submitting applications for funding line 2 expired on September 30, 2019.

The responsible project manager for the KI lighthouses funding program is Zukunft-Umwelt-Gesellschaft (ZUG) gGmbH.