SME powered blockchain innovation comes to stage - DIGITAL SME Blockchain Summit 2021 (Event report)

  • On 20 September, blockchain entrepreneurs, industry representatives, and national and EU policy makers joined the 2021 edition of the DIGITAL SME Blockchain Summit to discuss the current state of blockchain adoption by European SMEs.

  • Increasing Europe’s presence on the international market is crucial, as it is the only way it can stay competitive in the future.

  • Decentralised networks should be regulated through a principle-based approach taking into consideration European values. Moreover, investing in R&I and digital skills is key to unlocking the potential of blockchain.

  • Be inspired by our discussions and activities around blockchain: join our DIGITAL SME Task Force on Blockchain & DLT, a network of Blockchain SME innovators in Europe!

During the 2 panels, speakers debated whether the European blockchain ecosystem, including the regulatory framework, is innovation-friendly enough. Further, blockchain SMEs showcased their successful blockchain use cases.

Innovative networks like the European DIGITAL SME Alliance can substantially contribute to the strengthening of the blockchain ecosystem in Europe”.

Peter Geršak, State Secretary of the Republic of Slovenia for Digital Transformation, gave the introductory keynote. According to Mr. Geršak, blockchain is becoming an inevitable part of digital transformation processes for European businesses, in which SMEs can play an important role. Large companies face difficulties in adapting to this digital transformation, which is a good opportunity for SMEs to increase their innovative potential. Mr. Geršak further highlighted that innovative networks like DIGITAL SME have a key role to play in the European blockchain ecosystem. Indeed, coopetition should be the main levers of strong blockchain ecosystems, and piloting solutions on the SME level brings a significant contribution to the transformation and adaptation of regulatory frameworks.

Europe has an ambitious approach to blockchain regulation but more investments on innovation and education are needed.

In the first panel, the speakers first discussed the issue of regulation.  “It is crucial to understand the true nature of decentralised networks and to adopt a principle-based-approach regulation”, said Almudena de la Mata, Director General at Blockchain Intelligence. We should not forget that we want to build this future in a sustainable and human-centred way and based on our European values. While Petko Karamotchev of INDUSTRIA agreed on the approach, he called on the EU to be proactive and vigilant vis-à-vis the competition from China in the blockchain sector. According to him and based on his role as the co-chair of the DIGITAL SME Task Force on Blockchain & DLT and himself an entrepreneur, Europe is lagging behind and European SMEs need more sandboxes and investment in innovation.

In this regard, Lukas Repa presented the European Commission’s approach in supporting blockchain innovation through global cooperation. One of the latest initiatives to foster blockchain adoption is the pan-European regulatory sandbox that will be attached to the European blockchain services infrastructure (EBSI). The Markets in Crypto-assets (MiCA) Regulation, remarked Mr. Repa, is at the forefront of legislation globally, as it provides more certainty to start-ups and SMEs in the use of ICOs (Initial Coin Offering). Further adding on this topic, Marc Taverner, Executive Director at INATBA, stated that the organisation is “very pleasantly surprised with the positive engagement from the European Commission and European Parliament in blockchain regulation and education”.

Mr. Taverner then addressed the topic of engagement and cooperation in the blockchain ecosystem, one of the most crucial issues facing both Europe and the international community. He stated that the industry needs to put more work into engaging with regulators to educate them on how the technology and industry operates. In doing so, both regulatory and ecosystem stakeholders will be contributing to a more supportive, innovative and growth-focused environment in Europe.

Chiara Ventura from Italia4Blockchain agreed on the importance of education, introducing the CHAISE project targeting blockchain skills. She added that none of the blockchain trends and opportunities are going to be fully leveraged if there is no mindset shift in European SMEs. The role of associations is thus to guide SMEs towards this disruptive mindset.

Blockchain-powered applications made in Europe: From secure data sharing to the food industry

One thing is certain: in Europe, we are already far beyond blockchain applications in the fintech and cryptocurrency sector only. Following an introduction by Margherita Leder, four SME entrepreneurs from the DIGITAL SME Task Force on Blockchain & DLT and the Block.IS Acceleration Programme presented their successful blockchain-based solutions.

  • Secure data sharing and monetisation: Every organisation needs to interact with partners and users, sharing sensitive and personal information. Emiliyan Enev presented his company Recheck.io, whose unique solution allows to share sensitive data in a private and secure environment by using blockchain as a notary.
  • Decentralised digital identity: Identity fraud has become the biggest cybersecurity threats. Irene Hernandez, CEO of GATACA, presented her use case using blockchain for self-sovereign identity, via verified identity credentials digitised and cryptographically and securely stored.
  • A disruptive blockchain solution for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector: HODLNG founder Jean-Christophe Finidori explained how HODLNG helps LNG buyers and sellers deliver a carbon-neutral LNG cargo in a short time via digital assets, triggering social impacts.
  • Trust for the food industry: Alessandro Chelli presented Trusty, which uses blockchain in order to secure and share information in the food industry, with the aim to reduce the information gap between food producers and consumers.

MEP Henna Virkkunen concluded the Summit by stating that it is crucial for Europe to accelerate the digital economy, as it is the only way Europe can stay competitive in the future. She hailed the use cases presentated by SMEs during the Summit as “inspiring and encouraging success stories”, while she recognised the event as “important to raise awareness about [blockchain]technology”. MEP Virkkunen acknowledged the fact that there are still too many obstacles for SMEs and expressed her engagement to support European technology businesses and start-ups in competing against global digital giants without over-regulating the market. Finally, she mentioned the important role of EU funding, stressing that it is crucial to invest more inresearch and innovation as well as in digital skills.

Thank you all for making this event possible, and Block.IS for powering this event. We look forward to seeing you again next year. If you want to get involved in our discussions and activities around blockchain, join our DIGITAL SME Task Force on Blockchain & DLT, a network of Blockchain SME innovators in Europe!

Re-watch the event here: