Spending on research projects on blockchain technologies by the European Union is to jump after it announced plans to increase funding from €83 million to as much as €340 million by 2020.
The move comes as the European Commission last week launched a call for tender for a service contract to set up an EU Blockchain Observatory.
It has officially recognised blockchain-inspired technologies as having huge potential for its administrations, businesses and the society in general. The technology is seen as particularly helpful for providing trust, traceability and security in systems that exchange data or assets.
The Commission wants the observatory to build up both technical expertise and regulatory capacity with the ultimate aim of developing a common approach to blockchain.
According to the EU, the observatory will enable cross border cooperation on practical use cases, bringing Europe’s best experts together and promoting an open forum for proponents of the technology.
The EU late last year announced a new study to assess the feasibility of a blockchain infrastructure to help public authorities deliver services and implement policies.
Blockchain technologies, which store blocks of information that are distributed across a network, are seen as a major breakthrough, as they bring about high levels of traceability and security in economic transactions online.
While most commonly associated to date with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, they are expected to impact digital services and transform business models in a wide range of areas, including healthcare, insurance, finance, energy, logistics, intellectual property rights management or government services.
“Technologies like blockchain can help reduce costs while increasing trust, traceability and security. They have huge potential for making social and economic transactions more secure online by guarding against an attack and removing the need for any middleman” said vice-president for the digital single market Andrus Ansip.
“We want to build on Europe’s substantial talent base and excellent startups to become a leading world region that will develop and invest in the roll-out of blockchain,” he added.
The European Commission has been funding blockchain projects through the EU’s research programmes FP7 and Horizon 2020 since 2013. Up to 2020, it will fund projects that could draw on blockchain technologies for up to €340 million, it said.