At the invitation of WOBCOM GmbH and eco - Association of the Internet Industry, around 70 guests from politics, business and the general public met in Wolfsburg on 6 October 2020 to discuss digital sovereignty, innovation and GAIA-X. A panel discussion – moderated by Dr. Sabine Wilfling – brought together a total of seven interdisciplinary representatives from business, science and politics. They discussed the prerequisites and success factors for the development of a digital European economy, the sovereignty of an emerging data economy and the role of the Smart City Wolfsburg as a model for GAIA-X.

What GAIA-X can learn from the Smart City Wolfsburg

It was no coincidence that the event took place in Wolfsburg: It soon became clear that the European project GAIA-X could learn a lot from the Smart City Wolfsburg.
Innovation and digital sovereignty must be ensured in Europe, that is clear. The city of Wolfsburg can serve as a model for these objectives. After all, what still functions at the municipal level in the German Smart City without GAIA-X will later become a matter of course with GAIA-X on an industrial and European scale: Collecting data securely, exchanging it confidently, in order to benefit jointly from digital products and services.

"Until now, companies have been reluctant to share data with each other," said Ernst Stöckl-Pukall, Head of Division for Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. GAIA-X is the solution for safeguarding legitimate protection interests, fully exploiting opportunities in the data economy and realising the digital single market. "A strong industry needs GAIA-X as a basis for digital growth and further prosperity," says Stöckl-Pukall.

The city has proven that cross-sectoral cooperation between business and administration is a crucial success factor. Wolfsburg has been undergoing digital change for years through it #WolfsburgDigital project. Many industrial partners have been working hand in hand with the city since 2016 in a spirit of collaboration and trust, because challenges in the construction of a Smart City can only be solved together. In Wolfsburg, start-ups, SMEs and large corporations have worked together to lay the foundations for a Smart City. On a technological level, scalable infrastructures have been created. For example, the city shaped its digital future by expanding its fibre-optic infrastructure and by implementing initial projects such as the creation of an open data platform or a digital centre "Market Hall - Space for Digital Ideas". When immediate challenges, e.g. in transport planning and services of general interest, are tackled together, innovation is created.

GAIA-X: Working together on challenges

"Together with Volkswagen, we have developed Wolfsburg into a model city for transport and digitalisation," said Dennis Weilmann, CDO at the City of Wolfsburg. For example, the city collects data to intelligently monitor traffic, minimise environmental pollution and improve the quality of life for its citizens. "We bring all information together on a secure platform, make it available in a controlled way and create a breeding ground for digital innovations," explained Weilmann.

Only if business, politics and science all succeed in establishing a data ecosystem of trust can new forms of cooperation and innovation emerge. What Wolfsburg has impressively demonstrated is that the project participants are also setting themselves the goal for GAIA-X. The event in Wolfsburg once again clearly showed that the change in awareness of the need to solve economic challenges and obsolescence in a collaborative manner urgently needs to be initiated at the European level and implemented through GAIA-X.

Part 2 of the blog series on "How can GAIA-X become a success?" will follow soon.