What is the Gaia-X project?

GAIA-X is characterised by the following core elements:

  1. We want to create the next generation of data infrastructure for Europe, its states, its companies and its citizens.
  2. This infrastructure needs to meet the highest standards in terms of digital sovereignty and fostering innovation. We regard this infrastructure as the cradle of an ecosystem, where data and services can be made available, collected and shared in an environment of trust.
  3. The concept focuses on the precise needs of users and the added benefit as shown with the use cases.
  4. The existing concepts are to be understood as a proposal to Europe as we developed them with our French partners. We are pursuing this path also together with other European partners and in alignment with the European Commission.
  5. Our goal is to establish a more solid framework for this idea in 2020 and to launch some first use cases by the end of that year.

Why do we need GAIA-X? What is the added benefit?

There are three reasons why we need GAIA-X:

  1. Data sovereignty: Existing cloud offerings are currently dominated by non-European providers, that are able to rapidly scale their infrastructure, and that hold significant market power and large amounts of capital. At the same time, we are seeing growing international tensions and trade conflicts across the globe. Europe needs to ensure that it can establish and maintain digital sovereignty permanently.
  2. Data availability: We need a trustworthy, secure and transparent data infrastructure that can be used to exchange and process data. This is the only way we can use the economies of scale created by the availability of large data sets in Europe.
  3. Innovation: We need a digital ecosystem that allows for the development of innovative products and helps European companies and business models scale up and be globally competitive. GAIA-X provides the basis for this.

eco at Hannover Trade Fair: Gaia-X Supports Sovereign IIoT, Cloud and Edge Computing

  • Up to 22 percent growth potential per annum for Industrial IoT (IIoT)
  • Gaia-X will link data ecosystems and infrastructure ecosystems
  • eco Association coordinating specification of Gaia-X Federation Services

As the Hannover Trade Fair 2021 has demonstrated, Internet-based solutions are gaining relevance and momentum in German industry – spanning from automation in mechanical and plant engineering (industrial IoT), to digital innovations in mobility, and onwards to smart concepts in the education or health sectors. What’s more, a catalyst effect instigated by the Corona crisis is boosting digital transformation. The study “The Internet Industry in Germany 2020-2025”, published by eco – Association of the Internet Industry and Arthur D. Little in 2020, envisages an annual pandemic-related growth potential of 17 to 22 percent.

“In the German industry, predictive maintenance and smart services are driving digitalisation, which is replacing rigid protocols with proactive production and maintenance processes,” says Andreas Weiss, Head of Digital Business Models at the eco Association. “Due to the enhanced use of artificial intelligence (AI), the need for high-performance Internet connectivity – such as via 5G and soon 6G – is also increasing in small businesses, right down to the production floor.”

GAIA-X stands for European data sovereignty

As such, more and more swathes of data are being generated by European companies, organisations and administrations, with this data being evaluated and used partly with the help of artificial intelligence. The spectrum ranges from edge computing to cloud computing to hyperscalers. In the coming years, Gaia-X will help to maintain complete control over this data on a long-term basis and enable independent decisions to be made on who has access to it. “Small and medium-sized enterprises, global players, and not least public administration require orientational support concerning the availability of trustworthy infrastructures,” says Weiss.

To see this come to fruition, the eco Association is currently coordinating the Gaia-X Federation Services. The first specification round, which is on the verge of being completed, focuses on services for sovereign identities, a catalogue for providers and services, processes for sovereign data exchange and compliance considerations. As it nears the completion of the requirements specification phase, the Project Management Office is on the brink of inviting tenders for the individual subsections.

Supporting digitalisation of production sites

“On an open source basis, the Gaia-X Federation Services specify how industrial companies can retain full sovereignty over their growing volumes of data at production sites,” states Weiss. Later, they themselves can decide who gets access to which data and via which platforms and public clouds they want to network with their partners. SME suppliers can link their plants with the digital production platforms of their customers – for example, car manufacturers – with full data sovereignty.

The end result will be a federated and interoperable overall ecosystem. “The Gaia-X framework which we’re working towards will link implemented data ecosystems and infrastructure ecosystems. All data and service offerings will be transparent and dependencies on individual providers, so-called ‘lock-in effects’, will be reduced,” says Weiss. The goal is to build a European data infrastructure for the secure digitalisation and interconnection of industry.

GAIA-X Federation Services: eco Takes Over Project Management

  • Specification of GAIA-X Federation Services by April 2021
  • Open-source approach for 5 work packages
  • BMWi funding the project with around 13.5 million Euro

In cooperation with partners, eco – Association of the Internet Industry will specify the GAIA-X Federation Services. To this end, eco has set up a Project Management Office (PMO) and defined five work packages. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is funding the project with around 13.5 million Euro. “With the start of the project, we have laid the foundation for delivering on the performance promise of GAIA-X,” says Andreas Weiss, Head of Digital Business Models at the eco Association. “GAIA-X is a federative concept. This creates a space for self-determination that we in Germany and Europe value very highly.” In this sense, the federation services within the GAIA-X ecosystem will also be created as open source. On this basis, user groups can also organise themselves as part of GAIA-X, provided they conform to the relevant rules.

Uniform data and service space based on jointly agreed rules

The five GAIA-X core services – Identity & Trust, Federated Catalogue, Sovereign Data Exchange, Compliance and Federation Services Integration & Portal – are at the centre of the first specification round which runs until Spring 2021. The five work packages are primarily concerned with supporting further development and ensuring the interoperability of all subsections. The project will start with a requirements specification phase with the aim of launching the tendering process for the individual subsections in April.

The envisaged GAIA-X framework aims to link implemented data ecosystems and infrastructure ecosystems. The result is a federated and interoperable overall ecosystem. Participants can use data and services sovereignly across sector-specific data spaces. All data and service offers are transparent and the dependencies on individual providers, so-called lock-in effects, are reduced.

Innovative ecosystem for data and services

“The current Covid-19 situation shows that stable and resilient digital infrastructures and services are of great importance,” says Andreas Weiss. For providers in the infrastructure ecosystem, standardised networking offers new opportunities to bring innovative and customised offerings to the market. For example, they can link their services, develop, expand and scale them together.

The goal of GAIA-X is the conception of a federated data infrastructure with a focus on data sovereignty and data availability, based on European standards and values, with the aim of promoting innovation in Europe. In a very short period of time, more than 300 companies and organisations with over 500 people have already actively contributed to the GAIA-X initiative. Of these, 75 percent are in the private sector, half of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).