Linköping university has been granted six million SEK from the Swedish Innovation Agency (Vinnova) for the research project Catena-D (Circular and resource-efficient value chain systemically enabled with AI and digital thread). This project aims to transform the way Swedish manufacturing industry manage resource flows by addressing the crucial aspect of information exchanges across organizational boundaries.
Despite the much needed global shift towards a circular economy, a significant obstacle persists due to the absence of foundational technical solutions. There is a pressing demand for a robust and efficient information system capable of organizing and accessing data. This technological gap has hindered the development of economically viable circular business models.
“We need an information infrastructure that can effectively tap into and make use of data stored in extensive databases or repositories, especially during critical lifecycle stages like product use,” says Tomohiko Sakao, professor at the Division of Environmental Technology and Management, Linköping University.
The primary objective of the project is to validate the concept of "digital threads" in the context of the circular economy. A digital thread involves the seamless flow of information about a product's performance and usage from design to production, sales, use, and disposal or recycling. The aim is to deliver a prototype of digital threads tailored specifically to the circular economy, showcasing the transformative potential of AI in resource management.
Two industry giants, Volvo Construction Equipment and Bosch Thermoteknik is providing diverse cases that span the wide spectrum of a product's lifecycle—from design and production to use, service, and maintenance. Meanwhile the small software tech firm, Addiva, will contribute practical solutions, enhancing the project's applicability in real-world scenarios.
“Their involvement and willingness to collaborate ensures a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities at each stage of a product's lifecycle” says Tomohiko Sakao who is also coordinator of the project.
Linköping University, as the coordinator, will bring scientific knowledge and solutions to the table, focusing on circular economy principles. While Mälardalen University's expertise in artificial intelligence will play an important role in integrating cutting-edge technology into the project.
"I hope that we can create a success story for a trans-disciplinary research project and also help Swedish manufacturing industry towards reshaping the landscape of circular economy practices," says Tomohiko Sakao.
By combining digital threads and artificial intelligence, the project aspires to not only bridge existing technological gaps but also provide a blueprint for sustainable and economically viable circular business models.