"Logistics has been one of the fastest growing economic sectors for many years. [...] As a scientific discipline, logistics is still quite young, but it has nevertheless become the innovation driver of the economy in important fields in recent years." (Evaluation Report of the Expert Commission chaired by Prof. Manfred Prenzel 2018, p. 67)

Logistics is the driving force behind Industry 4.0 or a Social Networked Industry. Logistics is the foundation of global trade. It connects places and companies in global networks – from the physical flow of materials and goods to the exchange of data and the flow of finance in logistics management. More than any other industry, it is highly standardized and predestined for the overarching use of platforms, blockchains, and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques because it is completely "algorithmizable". AI-equipped technology such as intelligent containers and pallets that negotiate autonomously and route and pay themselves to the recipient, or swarms of autonomous vehicles in factories and logistics locations, exemplify how value chains will function in the future. Beyond the visible, digitization will permeate all of logistics, from individual subprocesses to global value networks.

Digital platforms and their AI are crucial in this process. Under the target image ("big picture") of a "Silicon Economy" – the complete virtualization of value networks – open, federated and implementation-strong consortia from business and science have been gathering since spring 2020, in which technologies, de facto standards and new business models are quickly being brought together and developed (open source). This provides the basis for the economic use of AI solutions with new services, technologies and applications in logistics and supply chain management and enables decisive participation for German SMEs. Only if Germany succeeds in playing a significant and active role in a logistics data and platform economy will this all-important development follow our social norms and goals and the German AI aspiration become a reality.

The Expert Commission for the Evaluation of the Science Master Plan 1.0 attested to the scientific competence field of logistics in the evaluation report as early as 2018 that it is actively and leadingly shaping the scientific discipline of logistics and "[...] is to be regarded as a leading logistics research cluster nationally and internationally due to its size, integrative approach and orientation" (ibid., p. 68). In this respect, it is only logical that the scientific competence field of logistics gives itself a coherent thematic focus of work with this target image of the "Silicon Economy". The resulting perspectives will further strengthen the position of Dortmund as a center of science.

Photo: Fraunhofer IML

Networks on various levels

Interdisciplinary networking of logistics exists in particular with computer science and information technology, but also with the economic and social sciences of the TU Dortmund University. There is also close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institutes IML and ISST.

In the next few years, the logistics competence field will be even more closely interlinked with the new scientific competence field of artificial intelligence . Fraunhofer IML is already a partner of the competence center Machine Learning Rhine-Ruhr "ML2R ", which is involved in the scientific competence field AI. In addition, an intensification of the exchange with the scientific fields of competence production technology and energy is planned and with the new field of competence on demographic change . There is already an interdisciplinary cooperation with the competence fields of production technology and energy in the DFG Research Training Group 2.193 "Adaptation intelligence of factories in a dynamic and complex environment".


With the launch of the new Master Plan, the Logistics competence field has reformed itself and, taking into account the recommendations for action of the evaluation as well as the target image of the "Silicon Economy", has identified the following objectives for the Science Master Plan 2.0:

  • Goal 1: The thematic focus of logistics continues to develop dynamically in research and application with the rapid technological development and the growing global challenges. The competence field would like to continuously adapt and proactively develop the orientation of the thematic focus with the involvement of all stakeholders in this competence field.
  • Goal 2: Strengthening scientific networking both within the competence field (at the "Dortmund level") and regionally, nationally and internationally is seen as an essential prerequisite for an active role in the scientific community, in addition to the formation of a professional focus.
  • Goal 3: In order to further consolidate the embedding in the national and international research landscape of the competence field, the international visibility must be pursued even more strongly.
  • Goal 4: Not only the position in the scientific community, but also the recognition by industry through application orientation and innovation transfer define success and are thus a goal of the scientific competence field of logistics.

Derived from these goals, the scientific competence field logistics has defined three project approaches for the Science Master Plan 2.0, which will bundle the many existing individual activities and initiate new joint activities:

  • Dortmund Logistics Program
  • Science communication and cooperation
  • Innovation transfer

The Fraunhofer Institute IML plays a central role in the continuation of the competence field in the Science Master Plan 2.0. Therefore, an expansion of the institute is aspired in the near future in order to guarantee the successful development of the last decades in the future and to continue to secure the current location advantage.

Participating organizations