#Blockchain4EU: Blockchain for Industrial Transformations

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This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

The European Commission led #Blockchain4EU as a forward-looking exploration of existing, emerging and potential Blockchain and other DLTs (Distributed Ledger Technologies) applications for industrial sectors. Through an experimental and participatory approach, this project allowed first to come up with an overview of promising applications across industries, and second to co-design five prototypes that physically showcase how Blockchain could be applied in the near future.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The project was led from 2017/03 to 2018/05 by the EU Policy Lab / Foresight, Behavioural Insights and Design for Policy Unit of the JRC (Joint Research Centre) in collaboration with DG GROW (Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs). Its main goals were to:

  • Map key challenges and opportunities of Blockchain based applications in nine industrial sectors;
  • Explore future scenarios of production, distribution and use via collaborative design models;
  • Identify regulatory, funding and other policy options considering development and/or uptake.

Grounded on EU Policy Lab's experimental and transdisciplinary approach in support to policy, the project merged concepts and methods from science and technology studies, foresight and horizon scanning, and generative and speculative design. Furthermore, it combined desk research, surveys, interviews and multi-sited ethnographic explorations, with a strong participatory framework focused on multi-stakeholder engagement and translated into three key co-creation workshops.

Workshop A was dedicated to the mapping of collective visions around Blockchain industrial applications, within a comprehensive overview of their policy, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental (PESTLE) dimensions. Workshop B was centred on the material exploration of near future scenarios through the co-creation of speculative prototypes which could illustrate Blockchain applications for five specific sectors. And last, Workshop C moved into broader discussions on policy strategies for digitisation of industry and businesses, with focus on SME innovation.

Throughout the whole project, multi-level stakeholder engagement strategies were successful in bringing together big and small, private and public actors already involved, potentially interested in, or working in sectors that may be impacted by Blockchain and other DLTs. These strategies were marked by sustained efforts to create the conditions for collaborative work between often conflicting views, while also opening up policy to non-traditional players.

Developers and designers, social, economic and legal researchers, entrepreneurs, industry and business representatives, civil society organisations, think-tanks and policy-makers from several levels of governance, were able to offer us a balanced outlook on the issues at play. Such diversity of backgrounds and expertise was central in building the comprehensive view of Blockchain put forward in our evidence-based policy advice frameworks. Additionally, the projects outputs were also modularly designed and tailored from start to end with all these audiences' stakes and goals in mind.

#Blockchain4EU main outputs were aggregated in a final report. It includes key insights for industry and strategic recommendations for policy following DG GROW's priorities, which are now also being appropriated by other EU sectorial services handling trade, taxation, intellectual property, etc.

A core part of these outputs are five speculative design prototypes co-created from our first workshop onwards to trigger and better inform policy makers' views on how Blockchain and other DLTs could be materialised and applied in near futures:

  • Bloodchain (transports and logistics): an assets management system designed to deal with multiple points and actors in supply and demand chains for the collection and transport of blood and other sensitive biological materials.
  • Vantage Point (advanced manufacturing): a platform tackling data sharing, interoperability and integrity in manufacturing systems by storing products' digital twins and offering distinct information based on specific information needs.
  • Care AI (health): a device providing access to basic healthcare in exchange of anonymised personal health data, afterwards connected through smart contracts to a data marketplace for third party public and private entities.
  • Gigbliss (energy): an IoT suite offering three models of the same hairdryer, AUTO, BALANCE and PLUS, linked to three distinct socio-economic models of energy consumption, management and trading.
  • Gossip Chain (creative industries): a service allowing anyone to submit rumours to a localised Blockchain, and later combining people's reputation and prediction markets to assess and register the information value and reliability.

These five objects became compelling entry points in policy to Blockchain and other DLTs, offering a tangible understanding of how these technologies could work, in which scenarios they could exist, how they could solve or pose specific problems, or even how they would impact other societal dimensions. They are now fully available not only to policy makers at EU, national and local levels, but also to stakeholders from businesses, industries, labour organisations and academia, attentive to potential applications of Blockchain and other DLTs.

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  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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