Our life in 2021 continued to be dominated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.
During this challenging period, our organisation saw an exceptionally high level of activity across all departments. We became a multi-site organisation with the formal inauguration of our data centre in Bologna, Italy, and the opening of our new offices in Bonn, Germany.
We kept our focus on the safety and well-being of our staff by implementing a gradual return to site in all three duty stations, in line with the guidance provided by our host countries, and we remained committed to mitigating the impact of COVID whilst ensuring business continuity.
The fast transformation of our working environment imposed by the pandemic, and the lessons learnt during this challenging time, led to our first steps towards the development of a new teleworking policy.
2021 also saw the renewal of our Copernicus Contribution Agreement and the finalisation of our negotiations on Destination Earth with the European Commission.
We continued our discussions on the development of an improved environmental sustainability action plan. Our goal is to stay aligned with the most innovative, efficient and environmentally friendly practices which in turn will offset our remaining carbon emissions.
Three host countries, one ECMWF
The concept of ‘One ECMWF’ was created to establish and enhance synergies across our three host countries and to continue working as one organisation, regardless of separation. We started to work on the deployment of new technology and platforms to provide a seamless virtual dimension across all sites, and we continued to create opportunities for staff to engage and interact regularly, albeit virtually. These included a bi-monthly Director-General address to all staff, the Weekly Weather Discussion and the Quarterly Evaluation and Diagnostics meetings to discuss forecast performance.
In 2021, we became a multi-site organisation with duty stations across three countries. This marked an exciting new phase, strengthening ties with Member States through new locations in Europe. The new geographical structure was designed with a ‘centre of gravity’ approach aimed at nurturing synergies and avoiding loss of efficiencies.
Using the latest cloud-based management techniques, we rolled out a new operating model for end-user device management to provide consistent IT support across all three locations and optimise remote working conditions.
Reading, UK – ECMWF Headquarters
In January, we resumed discussions with the UK Government regarding our new headquarters project at the University of Reading. The original footprint of the building was adjusted to take into account the reduced number of staff based in the UK, and the final design was approved by our Council in December. The new building is scheduled to be completed in 2026.
The implementation of the new data centre continued to be a key part of our activities. We started to prepare for the decommissioning of our UK data centre and the migration of our supercomputing activities to Italy.
A key milestone was the handover of the premises from the Emilia-Romagna region to ECMWF in June, marking the end of the first phase and the beginning of our period of occupancy. Soon after Atos began delivering and installing the new supercomputers. The Bologna data centre formally opened on 14 September and is planned to become fully operational in 2022.
ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier opened the facility alongside Council President Daniel Gellens and representatives from Italian local, regional and national governments, including Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano, Minister of Education Patrizio Bianchi, and President of the Emilia-Romagna Region Stefano Bonaccini.
Following an international tender amongst our Member States, our third site opened on 13 September in Bonn, a city already known as home to several international and intergovernmental organisations. Our work in Bonn focuses on our partnership with the European Union, including our role within the Copernicus Earth observation programme and the Destination Earth initiative.
This location also enables further collaboration with scientific institutions across Germany and the region, and closer connection with our Member and Co-operating States in central Europe.
Welcome speeches from the Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry for Environment (MULNV), and the Mayor of Bonn’s office were followed by a flag-raising ceremony and words by our Director-General and Council President. The ECMWF flag will fly outside the interim offices until we transfer to a brand-new building in 2026.
We are proud of our multicultural environment with 388 staff members from 33 different countries.
As an international organisation, we are proud of our multicultural environment with 388 members of staff from 33 different countries at the end of 2021.
During the year, we welcomed six visiting scientists from five different countries:
- A scientist from China, funded by the Max Plank Institute
- A scientist from Luxembourg, on secondment from Météo-France
- A British scientist from International Foundations Big Data & AI for Human Development
- A Finnish scientist from the Danish Meteorological Service
- Two Japanese scientists from the Japanese Meteorological Service
Awards and recognitions
American Meteorological Society
ECMWF Director-General Florence Rabier (below left) was made an Honorary Member of the American Meteorology Society (AMS). ECMWF Copernicus consultant Adrian Simmons (centre), previously MACC coordinator and Head of the Research Department Data Division, became an AMS Fellow. Senior Scientist Bruce Ingleby (right) received the AMS Editors’ Award for “timely and excellent reviews provided over the years” in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology (JTECH).
Royal Meteorological Society Buchan Prize
Senior Scientist Antje Weisheimer received the Buchan Prize. This prize is awarded annually to members of the UK’s Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) for the publication of a paper judged to contain the most important original contribution to meteorology. Antje had two papers published in the Quarterly Journal, describing results from a novel approach to quantifying seasonal predictability.
Tromp Foundation Travel Award
Scientist and PhD student Chloe Brimicombe received the Tromp Foundation Travel Award to Young Scientists for her paper on ‘Borderless Heat Stress’.
EGU virtual Outstanding Student and PhD candidate Presentation Award
Scientist and PhD student Nikolaos Mastrantonas was awarded the European Geosciences Union (EGU) virtual Outstanding Student and PhD candidate Presentation Award (vOSPP) for his presentation on ‘Predictability of large-scale atmospheric flow patterns connected to extreme precipitation events in the Mediterranean’.
Investment in ECMWF
The 35 Member and Co-operating States of ECMWF are the principal source of finance for the Centre, with contributions totalling £51.2 million, representing a large proportion of the Centre’s funding. External organisations support both core research and the complementary goals of the Centre with funding of £49 million. Revenue from sales of data and products provides additional income of £12 million, while other operating revenue totals £7.5 million.
ECMWF continued to invest in its staff, infrastructure, and systems to provide the highest quality products to its 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 (£26.4 million), pension schemes (£28 million), computer expenses (£16.4 million), buildings (£7.6 million) and other operating activities (£3.4 million). Costs associated with externally funded projects amounted to £42.4 million and net finance costs were £7.6 million.
ECMWF’s 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, the Centre generated a surplus of £7.175 million in 2021, which is available either for future investment or distribution to Member States according to a decision to be made by the Council in 2022.
Note: all numbers exclude Centre tax.