On May 24 we organised the final event of #Blockchain4EU at the Berlaymont, European Commission headquarters in Brussels. We gathered high level EU policy makers such as the Director-General of the Joint Research Center (JRC), Vladimir Šucha, and several stakeholders already engaged with, potentially interested in, or working in sectors that may be impacted by Blockchain and other DLTs.
It was an opportunity to present the project’s main outputs, with the launch of our Final Report, and an exhibition of the speculative Blockchain prototypes co-created with stakeholders in five selected industrial sectors: Gigbliss on energy, Bloodchain on supply chains & logistics, Vantage Point on advanced manufacturing, Gossip Chain on creative industries, and Care AI on health.
The full day’s recorded livestream is made available by the Streaming Service of the European Commission in this link.
The day started with our first interactive Stakeholder Dialogues on “Digitisation and the Uptake of New Technologies” followed by a Q&A with the audience. The session had the participation of Alistair Nolan, Policy Analyst at OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation and co-author of the report “Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business”, Christ’l Joris, president of the board of ETAP Lighting and former president of Agoria Flanders, Belgium’s largest employers’ organisation and trade association, and Laurent Zibell, lead of industrial & technology policy on digitisation, innovation, and R&D at industriALL European Trade Union.
Both the exchanges between the guest stakeholders and the subsequent interaction with the audience touched on key points for our project. Several questions emerged and were addressed in both moments, among which we can point out the following:
- How can we explain and understand what is digitisation?
- Why should companies, policy makers, workers, and almost everyone else, pay attention to it?
- When companies start investing in digitising operations, or changing business models to target digital markets, what are the key issues they need to pay attention to and which traps should they avoid?
- In which points new and old companies are struggling the most right now, when betting on digitisation and industry 4.0 models, and what can they do in the short term?
- What could be the main strategies to integrate new technologies with existing structures or legacy systems?
- What kind of impacts should policy makers prepare for, and which responses should they offer not only to companies, but also to workers and other social actors?
The second round of interactive Stakeholder Dialogues was focused on “Blockchain Challenges and Opportunities in the Near Future”, also followed by a Q&A. The session had the participation of Catherine Mulligan, Co-Director for the Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering at Imperial College London, Burkhard Blechschmidt, management consulting leader in business/IT strategy, digital transformations and innovation at Cognizant Technology Solutions, and Alexandra Moraru, program manager at startup Everledger.
Once more, the conversation between guests and with the audience was highly stimulating for our intended debate. Among the questions discussed during this session we can single out the following:
- How would you explain Blockchain to companies across industrial sectors that want to use it, and what do you suggest should be their first steps in going forward?
- What are the main issues about Blockchain no one is talking about, but companies outside the space should definitively know before they start investing or buying Blockchain solutions?
- What if Blockchain never comes to exist at large scale beyond financial domains as everyone expects?
- How will its influence play out with other present technologies or legacy systems?
- What would be the best answer for an overall cost-benefit analysis for non-Blockchain companies to jump on the Blockchain wagon?
- What are the main regulatory hurdles you see right now for the development of the Blockchain space?
During lunch, guests were able to visit our speculative prototypes exhibition, interact with them, and engage with the designers and stakeholders who led or collaborated in the co-creation processes.
Presentation of Main Outputs and Final Roundtable
The afternoon started with Opening Remarks by Vladimir Šucha, JRC’s Director-General. The excellent collaboration between JRC and DG GROW was highlighted, which was characterised by high levels of trust and engagement. The role of the project as an innovative forward-looking model, which was able to support EU policies with speculative design outputs beyond traditional science for policy, was also underlined.
The presentation then went into the potential permanence of Blockchain beyond the financial sectors and its challenges and opportunities, followed by the project’s key insights for industrial transformations. The latter were divided into the current dynamics of the Blockchain space, new business and economic models, trust and decentralised governance, emerging regimes for data management, privacy and transparency requirements, and finally, general strategies and guidelines for Blockchain uptake.
It was followed by the official launch of the Final Report with a presentation of its main outputs by Xavier Troussard, Acting Director of ‘Competences’ and Head of Unit of the Foresight, Behavioural Insights & Design for Policy Unit / EU Policy Lab of the JRC.
The outputs were first introduced through an overview of EU policy contexts regarding the Blockchain space, alongside the project’s main goals, roadmap and methodologies. A summarized version of the report’s main findings was then presented with an initial focus on key features and challenges of Blockchain and other DLTs in industrial / non-financial sectors, and then on Blockchain possibilities in the nine industrial sectors addressed in the report: space and aeronautics; food processing and distribution; transports and logistics; health and biopharmaceuticals; creative industries; energy; information technologies; advanced manufacturing; and natural resources. In the end, there was still space for a brief overview on the project’s strategic recommendations for policy.
The next session was focused on the specific component of the #Blockchain4EU project dedicated to prototyping for policy. A short introduction to the transdisciplinary processes and applied methodologies was conducted by the project coordinators. The presentation focused on the project’s development in a policy lab context, its spaces between stakeholder engagement and co-creation, its movements from making to policy making, and the role of design fictions alongside the exploration of collaborative production in prototyping for policy.
Following this introduction, the five #Blockchain4EU speculative prototypes were presented and detailed by representatives from each of the groups behind the co-creation processes.
- Gigbliss on the energy sector was presented by Larissa Pschetz (University of Edinburgh)
- Bloodchain on the supply chains & logistics sector was presented by Robbie Bates (Uscreates)
- Vantage Point on the advanced manufacturing sector was presented by Burkhard Blechschmidt (Cognizant)
- Gossip Chain on the creative industries sector was presented by James Auger (M-ITI)
- Care AI on the health sector was presented by Lucas Peña (Ideas for Change)
The event ended with a Final Roundtable on “Blockchain for Industrial Transformations: What’s Next? followed by a last Q&A. It was moderated by Jemima Kelly, journalist at Alphaville / Financial Times, and had the participation of Marta Piekarska, director of ecosystem at Hyperledger / Linux Foundation, Fabian Gompf, product and project manager at Parity Technologies, and Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, global leadership fellow and knowledge lead on the fourth industrial revolution at the World Economic Forum.
The questions below were the starting point for each of the guest speakers and triggered the interactive debate that followed:
- Beyond the buzz why should anyone pay attention to Blockchain, and will it really solve existing problems beyond the financial space? Can you describe future scenarios where Blockchain has been adopted in a five year period and how would they look like?
- If you had to choose a Blockchain myth to debunk, what would it be and why? And can you tell us a hidden thing about Blockchain that is not usually presented on white papers or conferences, and how do you see it being solved?
- How do you think Blockchain will play out with what is already out there in the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution? And what can we do to avoid major disruptions at the social level or to develop them with the best possible conditions overall given this is a new technology on a fast track?