Digitalisation of the automotive value chain


Figure 1: Consortium Catena-X + Gaia-X, Source: Catena-X Automotive Network, 2022

Digitalisation of the automotive value chain

The Catena-X Automotive Network (Catena-X) is developing a collaborative, decentralised data and service ecosystem along the entire automotive value chain that will enable companies – from manufacturers, through SME suppliers and on to recycling businesses – to benefit from the advantages of data-based management whilst simultaneously being covered by European law with regard to data sovereignty and data protection.

The Catena-X consortium is comprised of automotive manufacturers and suppliers, dealer associations, and equipment suppliers, which also include application, platform and infrastructure providers from the IT sector (Figure 1).

The Institute for AI Safety and Security has become actively engaged in the development and expansion of the project Catena-X and is currently involved in five of the eight sub-projects. Catena-X is considered an internationally relevant industrial policy flagship project and is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) with a total amount of more than 100 million euros. The project will run for three years, from August 2021 to July 2024.

Approach and objectives

The Catena-X project is the first application for Gaia-X; it utilises the concepts and principles and expands them according to need. With the connection to the cloud/edge infrastructure of Gaia-X, the consortium participants have already agreed upon principles and infrastructure fundamentals for the project implementation. One of the project goals is the development of uniform standards for data and information flows, which are essential for cross-sectoral collaboration. Today, the majority of companies already store and evaluate their data, but a lack of solutions for collaboration prevents them from creating seamless data chains. This is exactly where Catena-X comes to the fore.

Through the standardised availability of information and data within the entire automotive value chain and the integration of as many participants as possible, Catena-X aims to increase the competitiveness of the automotive industry and to create new data-based business models. The efficiency of both industry-specific collaboration and internal company processes should be increased and, at the same time, the legal requirements (e.g. Supply Chain Act) should be fulfilled. Furthermore, the project participants are expecting more efficient quality and logistics processes, higher transparency with regard to sustainable CO2 reduction, simplified master-data management and substantial improvements in product development. With the planned “SME-ready” solutions, Catena-X makes it possible for small and medium-sized enterprises to be integrated into the growing network in a way that is technically simple, efficient and therefore affordable.

The consortium is developing the legal, operational and technical basis for the Catena-X digital ecosystem and the planned services. Building on this, it is developing ten industry-relevant use cases (Figure 2), which will be successively tested and further developed in a user-oriented manner. As extensively as possible, the development is based on open-source principles.
In May 2023, the BETA phase started with the standards developed in the Catena-X consortium. The standards that have already been developed have been transferred to Cofinity-X (the first operating company for the Catena-X standards) and are now being actively tested in use cases. With the feedback from the beta testing, the standards will be revised and finalised for the final release, which is planned for 2024.

Figure 2: The 10 initial use cases of the Catena-X project, source: Catena-X Automotive Network, 2022

Contribution Institute for AI Safety and Security

DLR is contributing its expertise in the fields of digitalisation and artificial intelligence to the consortium. The DLR Institute for AI Safety and Security is involved in project management, works on the design of the fundamental technical concept and the network services, and develops use cases in collaboration with the other project participants. Furthermore, we are active in the project communication and take care of the transfer to industry on a national and international level. The future transfer of the concept to other industrial sectors is an additional topic.

In the use case Data- and Model-Centric Engineering and Operational Support, the Institute for AI Safety and Security develops practical AI-based applications for data- and model-centric development support. More specifically: This involves the creation of semantically enriched digital twins for individual vehicle elements, which enable all participants to share the same understanding of the data and which can be utilised for diverse issues relating to the improvement of products and production. In addition to various AI methods, privacy preserving technologies are used which enable the confidential handling of data. They form one of the foundations of the desired data sovereignty, a key value of Catena-X.

These technologies include encryption methods that make it possible to analyse data without directly viewing/disclosing them. The owner of the data can specifically define which data or information is made accessible for evaluation - and even then, only the results of the analysis are shared. He therefore remains the sole owner of his data at all times.

On this foundation, new data-based value-creation ideas and business models can be built that go beyond the prototypical implementations and the use cases planned so far for the project.

More information on Catena-X and Gaia-X.


Robin Taba

Research Associate
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute for AI Safety and Security
Safety-Critical Data Infrastructure
Rathausallee 12, 53757 Sankt Augustin

Karoline Bischof

Consultant Public Relations
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute for AI Safety and Security
Business Development and Strategy
Rathausallee 12, 53757 Sankt Augustin