Blockchain may bring great improvements for the European industry - from start-ups to large corporates, administrations and citizens. It can enable the provision of more efficient services and the emergence of new ones by:
- improving business processes in governments, companies and organisations;
- enabling new distributed business and interaction models based on direct peer-to-peer exchanges without the need for centralised platforms or intermediaries.
EU Actions on blockchain
EU Governments and the European Commission work on blockchain related actions. In May 2017, in the Digital Single Market mid-term review, the Commission recognised blockchain-inspired technologies as having huge potential for our administrations, businesses and the society in general. Also, the Council conclusions of 19 October 2017 (page 7) highlight blockchain, along with artificial intelligence, as "key emerging trends".
There are regular interactions between the European Commission services and the blockchain constituencies, including organisations that envisage to use such technologies and are running proof of concepts or pilots. In the 1st EU blockchain Conference (11th May 2017), online polls from more than 600 participants asked Europe to take leadership on this topic.
EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum
The European Commission has launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Jakob von Weizsäcker (Member of the European Parliament) kick started this action on 1st February 2018. The EU Observatory will:
- map key existing initiatives in Europe and beyond;
- monitor developments analyse trends and address emerging issues;
- become a knowledge hub on blockchain;
- promote European actors and reinforce European engagement with multiple stakeholders;
- represent a major communication opportunity for Europe to set out its vision and ambition on the international scene;
- inspire common actions based on specific use-cases of European interest.
Horizon Prize on Blockchains for Social Good
DG CONNECT is launching the EUR 5 million worth European Innovation Council (EIC), Horizon Prize on "Blockchains for Social Good", open until 2019. This prize provides an excellent incentive to attract developers and interested citizens to this innovative topic.
The challenge is to develop scalable, efficient and high-impact decentralised solutions to social innovation challenges leveraging Distributed Ledger Technology (DLTs), such as the one used in blockchains.
Financing blockchain and distributed ledger technologies projects
So far EUR 83 million have been allocated by the EU to blockchain related projects, and potentially up to EUR 340 million could be committed from 2018 to 2020.
Under the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) research programme, research on Blockchain technologies has been pioneered by a Collective Awareness Programs for Sustainability and Social Awareness (CAPS) project. In addition, projects like D-Cent, DECODE, or MyHealthMyData succesfully use blockchains to address the concerns on centralisation of data.
On the 19th of December 2017, the European Commission organised an Information Day to present funding opportunities for blockchain applications in different areas.
Blockchain based EU services infrastructure
The European Commission opened a call for tender on a feasibility study to assess the opportunity to pilot a EU Blockchain Infrastructure (EuroChain) for the advent of an open, innovative, trustworthy, transparent, and EU law compliant data and transactional environment. The call closed on 19 January and the study will start in the second quarter of 2018.
The European Commission will explore the potential of blockchain to improve cross-border European services. For example:
- VAT reporting;
- Title and business registries;
- Environmental, financial and company reporting,
- Health records management, clinical trials reporting, medicines registration, identity management.
This growing catalogue of blockchain-based use cases is an exciting glimpse into the future, predicting that Europe could soon witness the emergence of a new generation of digitally enabled services.
Blockchain technology is the best known distributed ledger technology. It avoids one centralised location and the need for intermediaries to perform transactions. Information stored on a blockchain is:
These characteristics can bring about high levels of accountability. Blockchain-inspired technologies are being widely discussed around the world and are being tested across multiple industry sectors. Blockchain has the potential of a break-through technology, capable of disrupting industry and public sector activities. Blockchain can also be instrumental for addressing the increasing concerns about privacy of personal data.
Distributed Ledger Technologies
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is a revolutionary solution first proposed in 2009 in which blockchain is based. It is a key for the development of new financial applications like electronic currencies and the implementation of fully distributed databases which can decentralise data storage and management. This enables the redesign of an Internet which is less conducive to the centralisation of data in a few proprietary platforms.