Last day in the office before the first lockdownStaff gather around the iconic duck pond at the Reading headquarters for a last farewell. The COVID-19 lockdown measures were initially put in place for 3 weeks, but the global pandemic prevented ECMWF from reopening its offices in 2020.

2020 will be remembered as the year of the global pandemic. At ECMWF, we endeavoured to manage the implications of COVID-19 to ensure business continuity whilst mitigating the impact of the outbreak on staff health and well-being.

We developed new remote-working policies and provided staff with the technology and flexibility they needed to work safely and efficiently, whilst protecting their work and life balance. 

Social distancingFollowing a COVID-19 Risk Assessment, strict safety measures were put in place to protect essential workers on site.

We continued to engage with staff through virtual gatherings and events.

After a thorough evaluation process, our Member States completed the search for a new location compatible with European Union (EU) funding policies. Bonn, Germany, was selected as the site for our third facility.

2020 was also the year the UK left the EU. Brexit remained on our agenda, and we continued to monitor the development of intergovernmental negotiations and the implications they would have on our organisation.

Staff were commended and thanked for their exceptional work during the pandemic.

Collaboration with academiaPhD students visit ECMWF as part of the Doctoral Training Programme, a partnership with the University of Oxford, the University of Reading and Imperial College London. The programme provides a world-class training environment for research students across the breadth and at the frontiers of environmental research.
Virtual DG talkDirector-General Florence Rabier engages with staff during her virtual weekly address.

ECMWF accommodation

Reading, UK

We continued to manage the requirements and space limitations of the ageing headquarters at Shinfield Park, focusing on adequate maintenance to prevent any risk of disruptions.

With the opening of a third facility on the horizon, the relocation of the headquarters to the University of Reading was put on hold, as the UK Government needed a better understanding of space requirements before relaunching the project.

Bologna, Italy

With the new data centre expected to be fully operational by early 2022, we started planning for the decommissioning of our UK data centre, located at the headquarters in Shinfield Park.  

Supporting the implementation of the new data centre continued to be an important part of our activities. Key procurements were finalised, and we prepared for the transfer of our supercomputing facilities from the UK to Italy.

We remained engaged with our Italian counterparts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure a smooth relocation and settling process for our staff.

Bonn, Germany

The city of Bonn will start welcoming ECMWF staff around summer 2021 in temporary offices. New and permanent offices will become available in 2026. The new German location will place ECMWF at the heart of Europe, surrounded by many world-class scientific institutions.

This in turn will enable us to foster and expand our collaboration across Europe.

ECMWF staff

As an international organisation, we are proud of our multicultural environment. At the end of 2020, we had 378 members of staff from 30 different countries. During the year, we hosted 10 visiting scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, China, Japan and the USA; a visiting scientist from France as part of the short-term secondment scheme developed with our Member States; and a graduate trainee from Austria.

Weather Room discussionOur Friday afternoon gathering became a virtual event, providing a platform for staff to discuss forecasting model performance.

We actively monitored all developments related to Brexit. Administrative processes increased significantly due to new regulations.

We continued to interact with the relevant authorities in the UK Government, notably the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), to discuss certain aspects of our Protocol. We worked on the future ability of our staff and their dependants to access housing, education and work opportunities in the UK.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, additional procedures related to quarantine requirements were implemented and required constant interaction with the FCO.

The staff-led Well-Being Network provided invaluable mental health support to staff during the pandemic, from webinars covering topics such as nutrition, relaxation and remote working, to virtual coffee mornings and yoga classes.

Christmas partyWe transformed our annual event to a virtual party. We created festive rooms, invited carol singers, organised online games, and provided staff with an opportunity to celebrate together, from anywhere in the world.

ECMWF funding

Following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, the volatility of the sterling/euro exchange rates remained a challenge at the beginning of 2020. In March, sterling stabilised and we were able to record exchange rate gains.

We continued to thoroughly monitor developments in negotiations between the UK and the EU and the implications that the outcome of these discussions would have on activities in which VAT was incurred.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, the world saw a significant disruption for business operations and an unprecedented increase in economic uncertainty. At ECMWF, we closely monitored the financial implications of the pandemic and reached year-end with no negative impact on our finances.

Investment in ECMWF

Our 34 Member and Co‑operating States are our principal source of finance with contributions totalling £51.3 million, representing a large proportion of our £125.2 million funding. External organisations support both our core research and our complementary goals with funding of £61 million. Revenue from sales of data and products provides additional income of just under £11 million. Other operating revenue totals £1.9 million.

In 2020, we continued to invest in our staff, infrastructure, and systems to provide the highest quality products to Member and Co‑operating States. The main areas of expenditure are summarised below, and include capital investment of £3.7 million, principally for IT and infrastructure.

The main areas of expenditure related to remuneration and related items (£26.2 million), pension schemes (£21.6 million), computer expenses (£21 million), buildings (£4.9 million) and other operating activities (£3.5 million).

Costs associated with externally funded projects amounted to £52.8 million, and net finance costs were £5.8 million.

Our budget remains on a cash basis, and the Financial Statements include a reconciliation of the results under IPSAS and in cash terms. Under cash accounting, we generated a surplus of £7.4 million in 2020, which is available either for future investment or distribution to Member States according to a decision to be made by our Council in 2021.

Note: all numbers exclude Centre tax.

Staff were commended and thanked for their exceptional work during the pandemic.

ECMWF continued to invest in its staff, infrastructure, and systems to provide the highest quality products to its Member and Co-operating States.