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International Development Research @ Cambridge


The National Geographic Society (NGS) and Microsoft’s AI for Earth program are partnering to support the exploration of how AI can help us understand, engage, and protect the planet.

The grants will support the creation and deployment of open source trained models and algorithms that are available to other environmental researchers and innovators and thereby have the potential to provide exponential impact.

To qualify, applications should outline a proposal to use AI for conservation in at least one of the following core areas:  

    • Biodiversity conservation: Species are going extinct at alarming rates, and our planet’s last wild places need protection. AI can help in areas like: Protected area management and restoration - Sustainable trad - Invasive species and disease control - Pollution control - Realizing natural capital (including valuing natural capital, species identification).
    • Climate change: Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, higher global temperatures, and increased ocean acidity threaten human health, infrastructure, and the natural systems we rely on for life itself. AI can help in areas like: Climate resilience - Extreme weather and climate modeling - Sustainable land-use change - Ecosystem services (including carbon sequestration and afforestation/reforestation).
    • Agriculture: To feed the world’s rapidly growing population, farmers must produce more food on less arable land, and with lower environmental impact. AI can help in areas like: Land-use planning and management - Natural resource conservation - Sustainable supply chains - Climate-resilient agriculture.
    • Water: In the next two decades, demand for fresh water—for human consumption, agriculture, and hygiene—is predicted to dramatically outpace supply. AI can help in areas like: Water supply (including catchment control) - Water quality and sanitation - Water efficiency -Extreme-event (droughts, floods, disasters, etc.) management - Healthy oceans.

Below are just a few examples of the types of tools that the funders are interested in supporting:

    • Biodiversity conservation: acoustic and image classification, geotemporal distribution models
    • Climate change: temperature and precipitation model downscaling, risk optimization
    • Agriculture: health monitoring in crops and livestock, yield modeling
    • Water: groundwater modeling, flood prediction

Level of funding

Typical proposal requests should be less than $100,000; however, applicants may request up to $200,000. Successful applicants may use awarded funds over one year

Project Requirements

All models supported through this grant must be open source, and grant recipients must be willing to share their models for use by other environmental researchers and innovators.

Applicant Qualifications

The main applicant must have a demonstrated background in environmental science and/or technology, and and at least one member of the team must have strong enough technical skills (such as AI, machine learning, statistical data analysis, scientific modeling, software development, and/or remote sensing) to complete the proposed project successfully.

Great ideas spring from a diversity of experiences; applications from all over the world are encouraged.


For further details please see the National Geographic Society website.

Welcome to Cambridge Global Challenges

Cambridge Global Challenges is the Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, with a particular focus on the poorest half of the world’s population.


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