Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based on it are strong drivers for the use of technology metals. Their primary production is associated with significant negative social and environmental impacts, and their recycling rates are currently in the low single-digit range at best. Therefore, an improved metal management is urgently needed for a sustainable digitalisation. In this context, the aim of the project is to create a national metal strategy and to conceptualise a cross-value chain AI solution as part of a circular management of technology metals.
The researchers are working on the project in five work packages. In WP1, they first consider "AI as a problem" and estimate metallic material flows triggered by increased use of AI in different sectors. At the same time, in WP2, project partner VDI Technologiezentrum is analysing "AI as a solution" to improve the management of metallic material flows and to reduce the need for primary production. For this purpose, the researchers are creating a map of AI potentials along the value chain. In WP3, which the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB is leading, they synthesise the findings into a conceptual AI solution that addresses environmentally relevant hot spots in particular. Finally, in WP4, the researchers develop proposals for a national metal strategy as well as a roadmap for AI-supported metal management. In WP5 (lead Folkwang University of Arts), the researchers are developing a communication strategy to raise awareness among consumers regarding the environmental impacts of AI. The Wuppertal Institute is the project leader and is responsible for the work packages WP1, WP2 and WP4.
The project is funded within the funding initiative "AI Lighthouses for Environment, Climate, Nature, and Resources" by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety since 1 January 2021 for a period of 30 months.