Microsoft has announced a new program called AI for Earth, aimed at putting the power of artificial intelligence (AI) towards solving some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time.
Microsoft will offer access to cloud and AI computing resources, technology trainings and lighthouse projects – a $2-million commitment in this next fiscal year.
To to lead this work, the company has named Lucas Joppa, longtime Microsoft Research lead on computational ecology, to the role of chief environmental scientist.

Why AI for Earth
The scale and speed of the changes we see in our physical and natural world require new solutions. But the latest innovative technologies often come with a price tag and require computational expertise that puts them out of reach for many researchers and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).
To make AI more accessible to these important groups, Microsoft has designed a programme based on three pillars:
* Access: Microsoft will improve access by making a new pool of grants available to help researchers and organisations gain access to cloud and AI computing resources. This includes access to Azure compute time and our data science virtual machine offerings on Azure. These grant applications are available now.
* Education: The company will provide new training and educational opportunities to make sure people and organisations know what AI tools are available, how to use these tools and how the tools can help meet their specific needs.
* Innovation: Microsoft wants to encourage others to innovate based on the power and potential of AI, so it will partner with others on lighthouse projects that demonstrate how AI can deliver results more rapidly, accurately and efficiently. Three projects are already underway: one enabling land cover mapping to aid precision conservation; another that will enable smart agriculture through sensors, drones, data and broadband connectivity; and another that will test the viability of using smart mosquito traps to remotely track and monitor species health.