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Pooling SME adoption and deployment of Blockchain and other DLTs

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BLOCKPOOL (Pooling SME adoption and deployment of Blockchain and other DLTs)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-06-30

The main strategic objective of Blockpool (see domain https://blockpool.eu/) is to accelerate the cross-border uptake and deployment of Blockchain and other DLTs by/to European SMEs. By linking supply and demand as well as connecting capabilities across Member States and Value Chains, we aim to demonstrate the use of BDLTs to European SMEs.

Our consortium intends to accelerate the diffusion and uptake of a technology that lacks a structured framework and relevant connections across the value chains. Such ambition should lead to a more cutting-edge and competitive European industry as well as to the structuring of the emerging value chain of BDLTs beyond financial markets. Within the project this is achieved through the combination of several components:

- Financial support (direct funding) for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
- Mentoring support for the SMEs
- Education and capacity building on BDLT

25 selected SMEs will go through an intense mentoring programme of 10 months to reach the Minimum Viable Product stage with their product and company.

BDLTs are considered the most innovative technologies since the invention of the internet. They cover a disruptive potential for both businesses and society. The project is well positioned to improve the EU’s current technological standing and ensure that it remains competitive in the BDLT space, especially compared to the US and China. In addition, Blockpool led to the selection of projects with key social and environmental ambitions, from energy efficiency and the protection of oceans to enabling democratic processes.
During the first year of Blockpool, the project went through three main phases: the set-up, the open call and the SME support phase. Each of these phases is discussed in more details below.

Set-up

The first step was to set the ground of the project, establishing a common infrastructure so all consortium partners could efficiently share files and communicate. Governance and communication modalities were established as well as a wide range of material such as the visual identity, website of the project.

The project plan was drawn up in line with the proposal and a quality assurance plan was created to ensure the delivery of high-quality output throughout the project. This came along with other plans and strategies ties to the monitoring of the project, its target groups and its beneficiaries, the communication and other legal and ethical parameters.

In its early phase, the project needed advertising to attract applicants to the call and reach a wider audience. Social media channels - YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn - as well as the project website were created alongside promotional material.

Open Call & Evaluation

After the set-up, the open call was announced. This call gave SMEs (new adopters or specialists operating in BDLT) the opportunity to apply for funding. The open call was structured so that each applicant had to provide information about the company, project and team. A classical cascading model was followed, from the call and evaluation process to the underpinning legal and administrative material due to its fair and efficient deployment.

At the end of the open call 109 applications were received. As a next step each proposal was evaluated by at least three independent experts and given a score (two external evaluators and one internal evaluator). The projects were ranked based on the average score and the best 25 were retained for acceleration support.

SME support

The onboarding process was triggered following the selection. Each company went through the due diligence process and was required to pass all checks before being admitted into the programme. If all checks were passed, the SME awardee was to sign a sub-grant agreement before receiving any funds. At the time of writing (M12) all 25 SMEs received the first instalment and started working on their Blockpool project.

External mentors were onboarded to support the SMEs over 10 months. The external mentors were selected from the list of experts and further screened to ensure that they have the right qualifications to support the SME awardees. Each of the 25 SMEs was allocated one internal and one external mentor.

Research & Education

Blockpool’s additional focus is to spread knowledge about DBLT to a wider community to trigger the its uptake by other SMEs. During the first 12 months several knowledge sharing initiatives were completed:

- Industry analysis report of DLT initiatives: This report analyses the main trends in the BDLT space in 2020, compares them to trends identified in the Blockpool applications and provides six case studies. It also provided contact information for national blockchain associations.
- Security report for DLT implementations: This report analyses the key risks in the uptake and implementation of BDLT. The report cross-analysed the results of a questionnaire and expert interviews. It categorized the findings as high, medium and low criticality.
- Massive Open Online Course: The aim of the course was to train people unfamiliar with the topic and provide them with knowledge on BDLT such as cryptocurrencies, tokens, smart contracts and use cases. It was made available to the public.
- Webinar series: This series built upon the MOOC and was split into two components, i.e. business analysis and technology. The technology part provided information on topics such as tokenization, whereas the business aspect provided information on topics such as funding. The recordings of the webinar were made available for the public through the Blockpool website.
- A list of blockchain experts was created, which is hosted on the project website and provides companies with an opportunity to connect with experts in a specific area.
- These items do not detail in full all activities that were conducted such as specific contributions to matchmaking companies, giving presentations at seminars and conferences (Convergence, INNO-INFRA-SHARE, ECN Annual Event, etc.). Still, these highly contributed to create knowledge, connections and advance awareness raising on the matter of BDLT deployment as per INNOSUP ambitions.
The project supports new, cutting-edge technology across 7 different sectors ranging from automated shipping vessel detection to blockchain-based identity systems.

At the end of the project the aim is to have catapulted most of the 25 SMEs to a state where their companies are viable and fit to survive in the future. Given the industries and topics the companies operate in, the potential impacts are vast. Several companies operate in the environmental industry, so a positive impact on the fight against climate change is expected. Furthermore, several companies relate to the financial services industry (e.g. tokenisation, securitisation or Decentralised Finance), so it would be expected that the journey to eliminate intermediaries will be advanced through Blockpool.

The pool of Blockpool projects is considered a lab analysed by our consortium to generate information on the pros and cons of new experiences in deploying BDLT. This constitutes an additional layer of state of the art. Other features of the project were put forward which were not explored so far, such as the cross-regional dimension of almost half of the projects or the socio-environmental impacts to be triggered by the solutions when diffused through the market but also BDLT-specific channels (open-source data hubs, etc.).