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Blockchain and distributed ledgers

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In January, the office of the chief scientific adviser issued a report on Distributed Ledgers and Blockchain technologies and the potential impact they will have on the way government and the private sector does business. Innovate UK are speaking with companies working in this area to understand the challenges to commercialisation, opportunities for impact and how we can help.

If you’re reading this then you probably already know what blockchain is and what it might do, but if you need a refresher take a look at this excellent economist article from late 2015 or, for a bit more detail, Simon Taylors excellent first chapter from the recent report.

Potential breadth of impact of the technology is huge

Blockchain technology wordcloud blog

The potential breadth of impact of the technology is huge. Any sector that currently struggles with inefficient (paper driven) processes or that has to rely on a single trusted intermediary, stand to benefit from solutions that:

  • increase transparency
  • reduce error
  • automate large swathes of handle-turning activity in smart contracts

Yet the technology is still at a very early stage

Blockchain technology

But this technology is still at a very early stage, with few people skilled in developing the solutions, and arguably even fewer skilled at understanding where and how they can be applied in cost effective ways.

There are still a large number of unanswered questions around (amongst other things) security, privacy and suitability to a given challenge, but all of these start with someone in a sector developing the use case and then talking to the technology provider.

Technology most used in fintech sector

In the world of fintech this understanding is strongest, as the most immediate applications are in improving the efficiencies around cross-bank trading, but wider discussions around use are still relatively new.

Provenance are pioneering the use of blockchain technology

One of those pioneers outside of the world of finance is, an Innovate UK funded company who are bringing the tools, through blockchain technology, to enable true product transparency, from the materials something is made from through to where it was produced and under what conditions.  From tracking Cornish haddock from fisherman to consumer, to tracking the creation of Portugese wines, provenance is building the tools to enable the circular economy and informed ethical product decisions.

Who will make money from this internet thing?

And is just the start. Back in the early 80s, if you had been asked “who will make money from this internet thing?” you might have thought of the infrastructure providers, network operators and a few website owners – that is if you had heard of the internet of course.

Would you have predicted Google? Or Facebook? Or one of the hundreds of thousands of companies that rely on the ability to transfer information globally and provide nearly 1.5 million jobs and contribute £180 billion across the UK economy?

Will distributed ledgers grow to the same scale?

That’s the question.

UK is in a great position

The UK is in a great position to take advantage of this new opportunity, with:

  • the technologists,
  • the first mover customers
  • a positive regulatory environment

Innovate UK supports development of blockchain technology

Innovate UK are currently out there, talking to the companies providing these initial solutions to find out what’s holding them back. If I haven’t got to you yet, then please get in touch. I’d love to hear what you think we can do to help, whether it’s in helping to understand our funding opportunities to connecting the technology to the different sectors we work with.

If you are looking at exploring blockchain technologies, then don’t wait for us to launch a funding call asking for blockchain solutions. Many of our competitions support innovations in specific sectors so spend some time looking at the scope of our current and upcoming competitions and pitch in an application.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Clive Spencer posted on

    Very interesting blog, having been looking at the subject of Cryptocurrency and use of Blockchain Technology over the last year. Interested in finding out more information on "how Innovate UK can assist companies to go forward in this young turbulent market".

    Excellent article and would be interested in sitting for a coffee and looking, at a way forward to enable my idea to become reality