Key industrial sectors such as automotive, energy, and manufacturing industries face today enormous challenges with regard of a transformation into a new era, characterized by huge innovations in mobility, environmentally friendly technologies and sustainability. This transformation requires the development of technical solutions based on innovations in materials and their processes, especially in the field of surface engineering and coatings. Currently, there is a strong trend towards making use of computational methods in modeling and simulation to establish a knowledge-based material development. Complementary, clever experimental methods such as combinatorial approaches complete this picture by allowing to implement materials data bases with real physical data (so called materials libraries). This has been well proven in the fields of protective and functional surface coatings and thin films recently. In this presentation, such combinatorial experiments dedicated to the design and synthesis of multifunctional PVD oxide coatings for wear applications in harsh environments will be discussed. The presentation will focus on model material systems and conventional magnetron sputtering as a model PVD process to outline major aspects of the materials development. ... mehrThese materials are novel oxide thin films from Al-, Cr, and Zr-based systems. A focus is on the scientific and technical requirements and opportunities to nucleate and grow solid solution thin films with corundum-type structure such as (Al,Cr)2O3). The pioneering work and recent innovations in this field will be described, and current main research objectives will be discussed.