UKRI Net-Zero Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) Scoping Project

Posted on September 20, 2023 (Last modified on October 16, 2023) • 3 min read • 627 words
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A wide ranging project examining digital infrastructure within the UKRI sector to ensure they will be sustainable within the next 17 years.

Initial Project Aim

Our initial aim was to provide a clear roadmap to deliver carbon neutral digital research infrastructure (DRI) by 2040 or earlier. This covers the entire DRI estate for UK Research and Innovation. the core project team at CEDA was to lead an initial, 18-month UKRI-wide study to survey the digital carbon landscape, run a set of demonstrators and develop a roadmap to ensure that our data infrastructure can achieve net zero. Taking a systems-based approach, CEDA would work to develop adaptation strategies for the way data is conserved, analysed and managed.

The link to the project website is here


Over the last 2 years, we have led a scoping project that has compiled recommendations for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to ensure all digital tools used in the sector - from supercomputers like JASMIN to staff laptops - will be sustainable within the next 17 years. The final technical report has now been published and is freely available for anyone to make use of

  • The scoping project has developed a toolkit, and roadmapped the initial steps required, for the decarbonisation of our national digital research infrastructure. This project was made possible by a £1.9 million investment from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on behalf of UKRI.
  • Over 180 evidence-based recommendations have been synthesised by the scoping project team - involving CEDA, over 90 UK researchers, and more than 20 nationwide research institutes. The recommendations recognise UKRI’s ambition for facilitating state-of-the-art computing tools and techniques, while playing a leading role in navigating the transition to an equitable and sustainable future.
  • A new holistic toolkit now sets out the proposals for reaching net zero - supported by a clear roadmap - and intended for people that use, manage, maintain, fund, or make decisions about digital research infrastructure.
Six elements of the sustainable computing strategic toolkit
The toolkit sets out the "what" can be done. The evidence-based recommendations are synthesised into six areas that reflect the challenges likely to be faced as we embark on the net zero journey:

Mission Focus

Continuous assessment and focus on the mission of achieving sustainability; active measures to counter the risk of enhanced demand negating efficiency gains.

Build and Share Knowledge

Providing leadership, support and advice for business cases and large procurements feeding into reporting; central hub for information and institutional knowledge.


Work must start now with commitment appropriate to the climate emergency while recognising that there will be a need for regular checks and adjustments; focus on progress not perfection; small steps; learn from experience.

Work with peers and suppliers

Through contracts, conditionalities, and understanding mutual benefits, to develop a low carbon supply chain (essential in the longer term).

Recognition of shared responsibility

mandate and empower all staff to take proportionate action to drive change and reduce the environmental impact of their work; community building; encourage discussion among colleagues and learn from others to foster positive changes in behaviour.

Green Software Engineering

Creating a body of expertise around green software engineering, providing training, developing tools, and standards to transform current approaches to writing code, and supporting codes running in data centres, such that GSE becomes the norm rather than an optional extra.

Three delivery pathways for reaching net zero digital research infrastructure by 2040
Reflecting the actions required and the mechanisms available to effect change, the roadmap describes "how" UKRI can implement the recommendations by 2040 or sooner.
UKRI policy and governance

UKRI policy and governance

Creating a policy framework which can deliver the steps needed to achieve the net zero ambition.

Delivery partnership

Delivery partnership

Funders and facility leads or service providers work together to implement the fundamental changes required.

Competitive funding

Competitive funding

Developing the necessary capabilities and tools drawing on the creativity, diversity and strength in depth of the UK academic community.

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