A ‘digital twin’ that can comprehensively model and test pathways to clean energy and net zero emissions in East Birmingham is being planned in a partnership between the University of Birmingham, Birmingham City Council and Siemens.

A feasibility study has been commissioned which demonstrates how a virtual representation of the energy and transport infrastructure within East Birmingham and Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District (TEED) will help to outline pathways for decarbonisation.

The digital twin’s aim is to provide a digital testbed where the impacts of innovations such as smart homes, clean air zones, or neighbourhood growth strategies can be modelled and analysed in a digital environment ahead of any real investment, ensuring every pound spent delivers expected results.

The feasibility report describes how a digital twin could enable scenario planning for energy-related retrofit activities. This would allow for planners to model different measures across housing types – detached housing to high-rise developments – to find those that maximise benefits for residents and the environment. These can be tested at a local level and then scaled up city-wide in the digital world.

According to the partnership, it could also support and inform the national dialogue on innovation, systems resilience, climate change and levelling up. The study will be used as the foundation for a funding bid to fully realise the project which will then go on to help unlock further investment and develop a clear pathway for net-zero and city-wide planning.

It’s one of a handful of digital twin projects of this scale and if successful, the project will be a beacon for similar initiatives elsewhere in the UK and globally.

Professor Martin Freer, director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, said: “Digital twins provide cities with a bridge between the real and digital world, where smart buildings and infrastructure share information with a virtual environment. This technology has huge potential to accelerate decarbonisation and it’s exciting to see this work taking shape in East Birmingham.

“The University of Birmingham is proud to work in partnership with the City Council, Siemens and others to develop this initial framework which we hope will stimulate the investment needed to realise a digital twin for the city.”

Andrew Smyth, head of data services, EMEA at Siemens Advanta, said: “With climate change already posing challenges for UK infrastructure and our economy, net-zero is a business and societal imperative. Our extensive know-how and expertise in the implementation of digital twin technology enables us to provide the city of Birmingham with the support they need to base their decisions on robust and tested insights, reducing risk and maximising the benefits."