European blockchain strategy
With the launch of Horizon Europe, the new for financing Research and Innovation in Europe, it is time to focus on the forthcoming Work Programmes to find opportunities of financial support to spread the potential and value of the technology and integrate in the overall architecture.
With an overall budget of €95.5 billion for the 2021 to 2027 period, Horizon Europe will orientate the R&D landscape of Europe, aiming at reaching European sovereignty and sustainability in key innovative technologies and nurturing climate objectives. This integration of Blockchain in Horizon Europe is linked to the Blockchain strategy, launched by the European Commission to boost the use of Blockchain but also to increase innovation of blockchain platforms, applications and main players in the field. The strategy, which focuses on “gold standards”, pursues the goal to develop research and innovation in blockchain technology in the areas of environmental sustainability; data protection; e-Identity; cyber security and interoperability. This strategy finds concrete applications in European funding opportunities, with €180 million already provided in grants from 2016 to 2019 in the Horizon 2020 programme.
The goal of this article is to present a selection of topics where Blockchain technology is clearly mentioned in the Call for Proposal. However, proposals and consortium integrating blockchain technologies would not be limited to the presented list and potential applications could be traced to other areas and work programmes in the Horizon Europe structure.
Blockchain technologies, also identified as one of the 16 “Advanced Technologies for Industry“, can be traced in various “clusters” of the 2nd Pillar with numerous applications of the technology in different industrial and societal areas. The many uses of the technology, ranging from traceability or security, but also by involving various actors in complicated value-chain and ensuring trust, for instance in exchanges of goods, money or legal documents.
Blockchain in the 2nd pillar, a brief overview
In the communication during the IT professional Conference on April 21th 2021, Pierre Marro, Senior Policy Officer at DG Connect presented the “Transformative Potential of Blockchain, Reinforcing trust in multi-party co-operations between actors (that may not trust one another).”
This can be resumed in some applications areas where blockchain technologies can be especially relevant :
Cluster 1 – Health
In the 1st cluster, blockchain technologies are identified as a tool to develop services around the health economy, in the 6th Destination : Maintaining an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive health industry. Blockchain is mentioned in a topic aiming at Enhancing cybersecurity of connected medical devices.
Therefore, blockchain is not addressed specifically but as one of the technologies required to ensure the security of the medical devices (among 5G networks, big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, augmented reality).
Cluster 3 – Civil Security for Society
In the cluster 3, Blockchain is clearly mentioned in only one topic, regarding “Terrorism and other forms of serious crime countered using travel intelligence”. Blockchain is therefore clearly identified as a technology capable of a better protection of the EU and its citizens against Crime and Terrorism (Destination 1). The objective in this Innovation Action (IA) is to use blockchain in order to secure and check passenger information while they are traveling through critical infrastructures (notably airports) in order to “improve customs/law enforcement passenger targeting capacity”.
Cluster 4 – Digital, Industry and Space
With the 4th cluster –the strongest in terms of budget- focusing on digital technologies and their applications in manufacturing and space, blockchain technologies are expectedly the most present, mentioned 18 times in 5 different topics.
In the Twin Transition Destination, Blockchain is quoted in a topic focussing on Demonstrating the use of Digital Logbook for buildings (IA). In this sector that accounts for a major part of the GHG emissions, blockchain is identified as a technology to better manage operational data in order to enhance productivity, resource efficiency, contributing to the New European Bauhaus initiative.
Blockchain is also mentioned in a topic where traceability is seen as an opportunity to pave the way to an increased share of recycled plastics in added value products (RIA).
Regarding Space, the European Global Navigation Satellite System (EGNSS) could benefit from deep tech (including blockchain but not specifically) to improve the accuracy, security and traceability of Internet of Things solutions: in EGNSS applications for the Digital Age (IA). This activity will be launched by the EUSPA (EU Agency for the Space Programme), under a contribution agreement between the Commission and the agency.
Moreover, in the destination Human, aiming at placing digital technologies at the heart of a human-centered technological development, blockchain has a driving potential. In keeping with post-Covid-19 pandemic and the development of telepresence, the technology should be integrated into eXtended Collaborative Telepresence (IA) to secure and protect user privacy.
Finally, in keeping with the Next Generation of Internet initiative, further R&I are necessary to address current limitation to develop an Internet architecture and decentralised technologies (RIA), and especially “those related to scalability, interoperability, energy efficiency, privacy or security, in order to make them dependable building blocks of the future Internet”.
Cluster 5 – Climate, Energy and Mobility
The 5th Cluster, with a budget of around €15 bl, paves the way toward a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050, as sets out in the Paris Agreement and following the need to deliver a “European Green Deal”. In this cluster focusing generally on adaptation and mitigation to and of the Climate Change, on principle energy production and consumption systems and on mobility (as leading sector in GHG emissions), deep techs have been identified as drivers of the transition to a more sustainable European economy. While some applications of Blockchain are infamous for the huge environmental footprint, two topics mention blockchain as a tool to improve energy systems.
Blockchain technologies are integrated as tools to demonstrate increased Reliability and resilience of the grid: Measures for vulnerabilities, failures, risks and privacy, in order to minimize TSO and DSO risks. In the other topic, Reinforcing digitalisation related know-how of local energy ecosystems, the objective will be to focus on the integration of digital technologies into complex energy systems with various community members.
Cluster 6 – Food, Bioeconomy Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment
In the 6th cluster, Blockchain is clearly identified as a technology that can be useful for the various actors among the value chains – back to the citizens – to control and ensure security of the product, “From Farm to Fork” with 4 topics referring to this technology in the destination. One more topic focuses, from the governance point of view, on the “data rights” of the citizens to ensure trustworthy data on their consumption.
Blockchain is firstly mentioned in a topic concerning Research & innovation roadmap for blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector (CSA). The purpose of this project would be to use blockchain as a way to support increased traceability and transparency in food supply chains and support the implementation of sustainability schemes. The second topic which deals with blockchain is about Increasing the transparency of EU food systems to boost health, sustainability and safety of products, processes and diet (IA). For this topic, blockchain can be used as one of the technologies along with IoT, AI, 5G and big data for instance. The third topic mentioning blockchain deals with Innovative solutions to prevent adulteration of food bearing quality labels: focus on organic food and geographical indications (IA). Blockchain can also be an innovative solution for this topic. Blockchain is finally mentioned in the topic about Effective systems for authenticity and traceability in the food system (RIA), where it can be used as a digital solution to ensure transparency.
Finally, the topic about governance is aiming to develop Piloting approaches and tools to empower citizens to exercise their “data rights” in the area of food and nutrition (RIA). In this topic, blockchain has to be used for personal information management apps.