July 20, 2023

Energy and manufacturing data space initiatives: chances and challenges

Things tend to change – they change quite often and quickly. This is true for many business domains, and therefore more effective and faster responses must be implemented to be better prepared. Data spaces help navigate this shifting landscape, and the Data Spaces Support Centre (DSSC) helps to set up these data spaces.

At the first annual conference of the DSSC, the manufacturing and energy sectors captivated the audience during the Domain Lounge sessions. The sessions, titled “What data spaces in domains (could) look like,” garnered significant interest as industry representatives shared their experiences, challenges, and insights regarding their respective data spaces.

Alberto Dognini from Fraunhofer FIT introduced int:net, an energy data space initiative, and Oscar Lazaro from Innovalia presented Data Space 4.0, a manufacturing data space initiative. What are the initiatives working on? What are similarities and connections between them?

int:net is an interoperability network for the energy transition in Europe. Dognini emphasizes that new standards are not needed, but existing ones need to be put in order. “We need to be keener in implementing technologies that already exist,” he says. How do they align with one another? int:net works closely with the DSSC. It has initiated the Energy Interoperability Taskforce, led by IDSA, and also coordinates the energy data spaces cluster, which includes five Horizon Europe projects implementing energy data spaces.

Key objectives of this cluster are to identify the similarities between use cases and how they can cooperate. What are the interoperability challenges at the information, functional, and business levels? The energy system of the future will be decentralized, without a “big player” as manager. All data will be used withoutthe grid provider, completely decentralized.

Oscar Lazaro of the manufacturing data space initiative Data Space 4.0 also stresses that they are not starting from scratch. Data spaces for manufacturing have been explored for some time. Manufacturing is one of the verticals prioritized by the European Commission. The need for sharing data in the manufacturing domain stems from the VUCA environment in which it operates, an environment of high volatility, high uncertainty and complexity. This makes it necessary to implement more effective and faster responses. Not only is more automation capability needed, but also the ability to implement autonomous operations, both at the production level and in the supply chain.

Lazaro advocates for the inclusion of SMEs at every stage of the development of data spaces. To build worldwide ecosystems, it’s critical to encourage and integrate them to achieve a sustainable future. A challenge in the manufacturing sector due to Lazaro is the fragmentation of companies, but a lot of SMEs must be reached.

The work of both initiatives will continue through the end of the year but will be sustained and continued through the infrastructure it has created. For this reason, it is very important to build a strong stakeholder community – it is about bringing the right communities and the right initiatives together. Many small initiatives today are characterized by a centralized data space authority. But to scale and connect different industries and stakeholders, they need to move from centralized approaches to more federated and distributed data space operations. “In the long term, we can expect to see completely distributed data spaces,” Lazaro underlines.

The manufacturing sector must ensure the fast deployment of data spaces and propose tools to actually deploy them and scale them up. “There should be economical ways to improve operations but keep the economic costs reasonable – and that is where data spaces come in,” Lazaro points out. Economic and climate implications are the key drivers for data spaces, implementing more autonomous and resilient supply chains.

The key player in data sharing in the energy sector, Alberto Dognini emphasizes, are prosumers and communities, energy system infrastructure planners, operators and service providers as well as cities. Connecting the energy, household and mobility sectors also requires smart energy operating systems, standardization and functional aspects such as data governance.

What are the similarities between these two domains? Both initiatives are looking at how to implement data spaces at all levels – not only the technical aspects, but also information and governance aspects. For both, it’s central to gain the trust of new participants of the respective data spaces. There are also strong connections in the architecture of the data spaces.

Now it is important to define pathways between data spaces to ensure interoperability and data sharing among different domains. Both initiatives hope to share all the strategies and ideas to bring together everything that is happening at the European and national level – to unlock new business models.

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