The project based on Gaia-X

EuProGigant and data infrastructure for Europe (Gaia-X)

Gaia-X is a European initiative to build a common, secure and sovereign data infrastructure for Europe based on the principles of trust and transparency. It was launched in early 2020, driven by policy and the economy (read more in the timeline). The aim of Gaia-X is to develop the new data infrastructure on the basis of the European legal framework, reducing dependence on large cloud providers such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and others. Gaia-X is the first opportunity to apply European standards for the secure and sovereign use of data in manufacturing. Gaia-X is paving the way for resilient value creation and learning ecosystems because it provides tools on how to design a virtual marketplace that is independent, overarching and secure. 

EuProGigant is the first funded binational industrial project with practical implementation of the Gaia-X principles. Its aim is to illustrate the technological and economic benefits of the open, European multi-cloud infrastructure Gaia-X. You can learn more about the connection between Gaia-X and EuProGigant in the timeline and about the practical implementation of the project here.  For EuProGigant, Gaia-X is a multiplier initiative for the dissemination of proven, industry-ready services for energy monitoring, energy data-based analysis of industrial processes and the estimation of CO2 emissions. Thanks to the Gaia-X principles, a virtual economic space is being created that is neutral in terms of platform. It will promote the dissemination of smart services and thus contribute to the European Commission’s climate policy goals and the Green Deal. 

What is Gaia-X and what is it not?

In practical implementation, Gaia-X must be understood as a framework of digital open-source-based software modules that offer interfaces for platform interoperability, software applications and data exchange. 

In other words, Gaia-X is not a cloud or platform of its own on which to run applications or services and is therefore very different from the major cloud providers. Gaia-X is a multi-cloud solution that provides tools for interoperability and portable relocation of services (increasing portability) by accessing other data and services (more on these principles here). “Gaia-X goes beyond the pure cloud approach and integrates distributed edge computing and edge clouds. Consequently, it lends itself to making data processing in manufacturing value creation networks Gaia-X compatible at all levels,” says Gebr. Heller Maschinenfabrik GmbH (research partner DE, GU). Gaia-X makes it possible to set up the European manufacturing network and, with its functionalities, provides a quasi search engine for data (packages), services and computer units in production. The project consortium sees this as a new form of internet for smart and big data. 

Gaia-X creates new virtual economic spaces for digital business models based on data and software applications; in doing so, it gives digital products more visibility and makes them easy to find. This is because there is great potential in understanding the virtual world as a new market and source of knowledge and in rethinking participation. 

How Gaia-X works

Figure 1:  Manufacturing ecosystem (consisting of data and infrastructure ecosystems), with four thematic areas of services that ensure interaction between ecosystems


According to the Gaia-X concept, a manufacturing ecosystem (= value creation ecosystem) is composed of an infrastructure ecosystem and a data ecosystem, which are digitally networked thanks to Gaia-X. Data is generated in the infrastructure ecosystem and transferred to the data ecosystem, where it is then processed and stored in the cloud. They then flow back into the infrastructure ecosystem as aggregated knowledge or information (smart data) and contribute to value creation there, for example in the machine environment. The basis of the entire system is the European legal framework (including GDPR), which makes the system legally secure. Digital services (“federation services” in Gaia-X, also functions or programmed codes/ rules implemented in program code) provide the basic infrastructure for interaction between and within the ecosystems (see Interoperability). 

In the infrastructure ecosystem, the data is generated within the company’s hardware (such as machines, systems, sensors, etc.). Subsequently, the data is processed on “nodes”, which are computer units registered and certified according to Gaia-X. The processed data is then fed into the data ecosystem or linked to cloud and computer systems. For data processing, services run on the nodes, which effectively enable this interoperability (more on interoperability and other principles of EuProGigant). In the data ecosystem, “dataspaces” come into play. These are domain-specific areas for industry, among others, which can be imagined as virtual spaces. In these, the participants have agreed on basic rules regarding interfaces for data exchange and the type of data description, among other things. 

Federation Services in Gaia-X

The “Federation Services” are used to link the two ecosystems which enables interoperability. There are various federation services, which are clustered in four service classes (computer science term for families of programmed codes) according to related topics. The entire Federation Services can be thought of as a function library. The proposal for the services comes from the Gaia-X community, whereby no details of the implementation (interfaces, bottom-up interaction) are described. The working groups, which are part of the Gaia-X AISBL (umbrella organisation based in Brussels), develop the concepts of the federation services and deliver the first implementations. The implementation in open source code will be essential for the dissemination and acceptance of Gaia-X. 

Other digital services can be applied (“consumed”) in the data and infrastructure ecosystem. A service – to be understood here as a mini-software application – can, for example, serve to detect the stability of a machining process or the condition of a machine. EuProGigant creates the data and infrastructure ecosystem, feeds its content, develops the first digital services and demonstrates how they work. 

Federation services and the rules behind them ensure that the owner of sensitive production data has complete control over defining rights of use. This is understood as data sovereignty. Existential to this is the unique identification of each data provider/consumer and the development of powerful mechanisms to protect the collected data, as well as the ability to track data use and data processing. In line with the Gaia-X concept, open source and open standards are also used in Gaia-X wherever possible and appropriate. 

The four classes (=topics) of Federation Services:

Development and scope of the Federation Services

The development of Federation Services is not part of EuProGigant, but is the responsibility of the GAIA-X AISBL working groups involving companies from all sectors, in addition to federation initiatives such as the Sovereign Cloud Stack. Behind each service is a provider who develops the service and makes it available for use in the ecosystem. Anyone participating in GAIA-X can offer and develop services thanks to the open source system.  

By installing the same service at several companies, e.g. in a customer relationship, the data can be forwarded. GAIA-X also envisages offering and combining several smaller services based on this data in the future through better, open availability of data, reducing dependence on large applications. 

Implementation of GAIA-X in EuProGigant

After the initial months of the concept phase, a first MVP (Minimum Viable Product) will be created for GAIA-X, which, among other things, will technically describe essential functions of GAIA-X, the federation services and roles as well as functionalities in the GAIA-X ecosystem. EuProGigant contributes its own findings and development work to the GAIA-X AISBL Foundation after each completed milestone and at the end of the project. This is for the continuous improvement and functional expansion of the digital ecosystem for Europe. For a first look at the emerging applications (use cases), see thematic fields.

Services, data and nodes are provided by EuProGigant’s project partners and the project shows for the first time the implementation of the system, here for the domain “Industry”, which was named “European Production Giganet” by the project consortium. Work is being done on services and functions in all four classes. A demonstrator is planned for the end of 2021. The implementation of the GAIA-X function modules aims to provide all entities in the value creation network (hardware devices, data sources, user and user roles) with a unique self-description according to the Identity & Trust framework and to make them discoverable and available in the Federated Catalogue. 

The implementation of the GAIA-X architecture is to be made especially easy for SMEs and thereby the basis for independent and cost-effective organisation in manufacturing networks is to be created. To this end, the research project is characterised by the fact that guidelines for SMEs will be written over the project period. More about the guidelines and the practical implementation can be found here. 

More about the practical implementation in the project can be found here.

Three years of GAIA-X and EuProGigant

EuProGigant started with the vision of a European data infrastructure, now known as GAIA-X. On 25 May 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. It provides the European legal framework regarding personal data and data protection in general and has triggered national legislations to implement data protection, such as the Data Protection Act in Austria and Federal Data Protection Act in Germany. In order to implement these regulations for all data, a separate, secure infrastructure will be built. This was the starting point for the development of the GAIA-X initiative. 

GAIA-X was presented to the public in October 2019 for the first time initially under the term of a “European Single Market for Data” at the German Digital Summit in Dortmund. The German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, explained that from now on Germany and France would strengthen their cooperation for a secure and trustworthy data infrastructure. He named the goals as strengthening digital sovereignty for European cloud users as a counterweight to the offerings of international hyperscalers such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Alibaba and minimising dependence on the large cloud providers. 

The GAIA-X project was introduced on 19 February 2020 with the presentation of a German-French position paper on GAIA-X. The position paper defined GAIA-X and its principles, explained key terms such as the Federated Catalogue and announced milestones for the future. At the associated digital conference, Minister Altmaier described the initiative with the statement: “It is Europe’s moon landing project“. 

On the same day, the European Commission published two strategies: the white paper on artificial intelligence and the European strategy for data. The strategy on AI provides a European objective on potential application areas. In addition, the European Commission describes its perspective on the challenges in the application of AI against the societal and economic background. From this, research needs and fields of action could be derived. Through the data strategy, the European Commission provided the European framework and the objective for the initiative to build a secure and sovereign data infrastructure for Europe. 

At this stage, the project sponsors DLR in Germany and FFG in Austria were already discussing the design of a joint funding initiative on the smart and sovereign use of data for manufacturing. This was published in a bilateral call for proposals by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi, DE) and the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK, AT) on 20 April 2020. The call states that “the Austrian-German consortium is invited to consider the possibility of demonstrating how smart and sovereign use of data in production can take place, building on the GAIA-X project.“ 

With the call for proposals in April 2020, Gebr. Heller Maschinenfabrik GmbH and the TU Darmstadt with the Institute for Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools (PTW) decided to take the initiative to launch a binational project to demonstrate the use of data in production. At the time, Heller and PTW Darmstadt were engaged in an intensive exchange on the manufacturing of the future, and in May the TU Wien joined in together with the Institute for Production Engineering and Photonic Technologies (IFT). This initiative was the starting point for the EuProGigant project. 

On 4 June 2020, a digital French-German Ministerial Talk took place, outlining the first steps towards a European data infrastructure. This was the kick-off meeting for the establishment of national GAIA-X Hubs. The GAIA-X Hubs are part of the GAIA-X community. They introduce companies to the topic as well as network them and thereby initiate the establishment of demonstrators for GAIA-X. 

Just one month later, IT strategists and open source thought leaders from the group of GAIA-X founding members joined forces to implement a cloud technology called Sovereign Cloud Stack (SCS). This is an open source-based GAIA-X application and is the backbone for the Federation Services. This was to ensure that the Federation Services were not developed exclusively by companies. Open source means that the programme code is visible and can be adapted. What is further developed further and what happens with the data is transparent. SMEs in particular benefit greatly from open source-based technologies because they are cost-effective and can be integrated. The SCS was one of the first three projects to receive support from the German Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIN-D), which was founded in autumn 2019. 

An umbrella organisation called GAIA-X AISBL was launched on 15 September 2020 with the signatures of 22 founding companies and institutions located in Brussels, eleven each from Germany and France. The GAIA-X AISBL – European Association for Data and Cloud – (AISBL: Association Internationale sans but lucratif) was legally established as an organisation on 19 February 2021 by a public notary with the signature of King Philippe of Belgium. Hyperscalers have agreed to participate in GAIA-X and the European compliant solution and contribute their know-how to the working groups of GAIA-X AISBL, where the technical design of the federation services takes place. 

On 21 September 2020, the EuProGigant hearing took place as part of the official funding competition, following a successful submission on 20 August 2020. This was followed by the call for full proposals in December 2020. At the end of February 2021, DLR issued the notification of funding and the research funding contract from FFG. Now nothing stood in the way of starting the project. 

The first project work began with the requirements definition for the use cases within the project. The first collaborative meeting took place on 26 March 2021.