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Helping SMEs take the first steps into the Blockchain

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BlockStart (Helping SMEs take the first steps into the Blockchain)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-04-30

The intrinsic complexity of DLTs will translate into years of pioneering experimentation, so if Europe wants to become a leader, it has to start spurring its industry now. SMEs face several general challenges towards blockchain technology adoption at this scale, with the main ones being: no capacity for the infrastructural investment needed; no department or in-house capacity to adopt and test new technologies. This is why SMEs regularly take advantage of intermediaries that make the link to know-how that is not directly related to their expertise. However, even most intermediaries are as stumped at DLTs as SMEs in distinguishing potential from hype, showing:
- Lack of understanding of how the DLT works and could be applied to SMEs internal or external processes;
- Lack of awareness on what concrete processes or components could be changed to DLT;
- Lack of knowledge related to existing DLT applications and the market as a whole;
- Lack of information about the benefits, advantages and risks associated with the adoption of DLT.
From the supply-side, we have an increasingly large community of developers and startups creating the future of DLTs - and struggling to find a market for their results. These technological pioneers frequently lack sales skills and the ability to respond to clients’ needs and questions on implementation, functionality, compliance with legal aspects and sustainability.
This is where BlockStart wants to come in: provide clarity and know-how for SMEs and intermediaries to be the first clients for the DLT pioneers in Europe. To achieve this, BlockStart will launch 3 sector-specific Open Calls to attract developers. Using a Company Builder approach, BlockStart will run an “acceleration” programme - Prototype - to stimulate the elusive product/market fit. Then, the selected tech providers will be matched with pioneering SMEs who will be ready to test these solutions in live conditions in the Pilot phase. Funding is granted to both SMEs and DLT developers for business development, technological adaptation and cross-border collaboration.
All along the programme, BlockStart will also be engaging SMEs, intermediaries and policy makers in understanding the framework conditions for the adoption of DLT.
The first and second periods of BlockStart were highly successful, setting the stage for the achievement of all programme’s objectives during its remaining 10 months. Here is an overview of the main activities carried out by work packages in the first 20 months:
WP1 Coordination – Planning and monitoring of the main project activities, including the administrative and financial coordination of the consortium, funds and sub-grantees management, data management and initiatives toward the programme’s sustainability. 37 consortium meetings where held, 21 deliverables submitted, 4 interim instalment payments made to the consortium partners, as well as the subcontracting payments to 5 external evaluators and sub-grant transfers to 40 DLT developers and 34 SME adopters. Moreover, BlockStart has fostered partnerships with 25 reference partners (https://www.blockstart.eu/partnerships/) and dynamised a digital platform (Slack workspace, currently with 265 members) that aims to promote the sharing of relevant information and interaction between DLT technology providers, SME adopters, mentors, investors, other intermediaries and consortium partners.
WP2 Engage – Planning and management of relevant open calls, together with the development of a tool to help determine the DLT potential for individual SMEs. The first 2 open calls targeting DLT developers from fintech, ICT and retail sectors gathered 201 applications, with the SME adopters’ open calls receiving 113 applications, with all combined calls raising interest from 42 countries. The “Do you need blockchain” tool developed by the consortium (available here: https://www.blockstart.eu/dlt/) was used by 179 entities.
WP3 Prototype – Acceleration of DLT projects towards market-ready status, through dedicated mentoring and matchmaking with potential SME adopters. The first 2 Ideation Kick-off online events combined gathered over 140 participants and facilitated 80+ matchmaking meetings between blockchain solution providers and end-user SMEs. Both acceleration stages resulted in the development of 20 promising MVPs, supported by 120+ mentoring sessions with the consortium and a pool of external mentors (https://www.blockstart.eu/mentors/).
WP4 Pilot – Bring the developed DLT solutions closer to the market, by matching them with pioneering SME adopters, supporting the pilot implementations and promoting their public launch in a Demo Day event. The first Pilot stage took place from August to October 2020, resulting in a high satisfaction rate from both solution providers and end-user SMEs (NPS over 90%), and culminating in a Demo Day event that attracted more than 100 participants (https://www.blockstart.eu/all-about-the-shaping-europes-blockchain-future-online-demo-day-event/). Second Pilot stage is currently ongoing.
WP5 Impact – Activities related to intermediary capacity building, policy work, dissemination and overall multiplying the results of the project. The consortium organized and participated in several blockchain-related events, including webinars for intermediaries and policy makers, pitch sessions and conferences, all showcased on https://www.blockstart.eu/events/. Reports (https://www.blockstart.eu/deliverables/) were made available to the community, as well as 80+ articles (https://www.blockstart.eu/newsroom/). Dissemination of BlockStart and its beneficiary startups (https://www.blockstart.eu/our-startups/) and SMEs (https://www.blockstart.eu/our-adopters/) was boosted by social media, newsletters, press releases and over 200 articles in reference media (https://www.blockstart.eu/press/).
WP6 Ethics requirements – Planning and actions to ensure the project complies with all ethics requirements requested by the EC.
The main objectives of BlockStart programme are to facilitate the achievement of the following 3 impacts and respective KPIs:
1) More SMEs take advantage of the opportunities offered by DLTs:
- Engage 60 SMEs to test BlockStart DLT solutions.
- Have 30 SMEs using BlockStart DLT solutions or spin-offs after the project.
- Reach over 600 SMEs with BlockStart’s DLT introductory materials via intermediaries.
2) More intermediaries are familiar with DLTs and equipped to assist SMEs in this field:
- BlockStart will provide DLT assessment in collaboration with 6 intermediaries.
- More than 20 intermediaries will take part in BlockStart programmes as mentors, evaluators or disseminators.
- Over 10 intermediaries will incorporate DLT innovation services in their portfolio.
- At least 30 intermediaries will use the DLT Assessment Tool on our website.
3) Improved framework conditions for the uptake of DLTs and the mitigation of related risks:
- Engage 6 policy makers, 6 industry leaders and 6 DLT experts in workshops to resolve obstacles to DLT adoption.
- Collect contributions from over 120 stakeholders (SMEs, intermediaries, sector representatives, DLT experts, policy makers, etc.) for the development of Policy Recommendations.
- Produce 3 sector-specific reports of Policy Recommendations providing a roadmap for DLT adoption.
- Bring together for a policy conference 100 industry representatives, policy makers, DLT experts, intermediaries and any other relevant stakeholders.
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