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European SMEs

Policy makers and projects work together for the digitalization of European SMEs

European SMEs

The session “How can policy makers support the digitalization for European SMEs?”, hosted by the MEP Ms Adriana Maldonado, presented key recommendations to foster digitalization and blockchain.

BLOCKCHERS Project, coordinated by ZABALA, and the European Parliament celebrated yesterday, Thursday 28th of January, a Working Breakfast on “How policy makers can support the digitalization for European SMEs”.

The event was hosted by the MEP Adriana Maldonado López, who started the session highlighting the importance of digitalization, a transformation that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, what leads to putting interest in promoting blockchain in different sectors like health.

As a substitute on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and on the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age (AIDA), she also pointed out the importance of the SMEs in the European Market, which represent around 50% of the GDP, and noted the significance that has for policy makers to listen to them for identifying primary challenges that they have, in order to know what to promote.

The session included Mr. Daniel Gassmann, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), who discussed ongoing blockchain projects monitored by EASME and Mr. Rapolas Lakavičius, the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology of the European Commission (DG Connect), who presented the 5-pillar blockchain strategy of the European Commission for establishing global leadership in blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT), which includes:

  • The European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI), a part of the EU Blockchain Partnership signed by all EU Member States, most of the European Economic Area (EEA) countries and the EC.
  • Collaboration with the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA).
  • Connecting Global and European expertise.
  • Investing in research and innovation activities and start-ups. In Horizon 2020 they have more than 200 projects related to blockchain, out of which more than 70 are participating in roundtables co-chaired by the EC and INATBA ‘ICT Verticals and Horizontals for Blockchain Standardisation’.
  • Liaising with International and European Standardisation organisations such as ISO, CEN CENELEC, ETSI, IEEE, ITU-T, OASIS to represent European values and encourage cohesion in blockchain standardisation activities, Developing skills and Promoting an interoperable legal framework for the Digital Single Market.

Recommendations for policy makers were also made by the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center. Ms. Denise Duve and Mr. Stefan Schmitt explained that the key to achieve innovation in line with EU interest is to eliminate system breaks, interoperability, and regulatory certainty, which would lead to economically viable business models through network effects, and investment security.

Therefore, they gave five recommendations:

 

  1. To define a governance rule set per industry, to establish a minimum standard for legal enforceability to ensure the rule of law, protect stakeholders and enhance trust.
  2. To initiate a blockchain based identity framework to lay the basis for trusted interaction.
  3. To enable legally binding transactions through blockchain compatible digital signatures.
  4. To push for the implementation of a DLT-based digital programmable Euro. The digital, programmable Euro issued by banks or central banks would be beneficial in terms of default risk and would lead to higher acceptance and less friction for many use cases in the long term.
  5. To push for overall standards to avoid fragmentation. Currently, they believe that we have a fragmented landscape driven by various consortia developing industry standards. Blockchain technology can only live up to its potential through standardization and certification across industries and domains.

Moreover, they added important legal aspects to consider:

  • GDPR: There is a need to clarify and develop guidelines for complying with the GDPR for 3 crucial areas: the right to be forgotten, the controller determination and the anonymity threshold.
  • Cross-border jurisdiction: A clear regulatory framework is needed that addresses the issue of cross-border jurisdiction.
  • Token Taxonomy: The lack of a commonly accepted classification and taxonomy for blockchain technology and cryptographic tokens results in legal uncertainties for all stakeholders and therefore slows down the adoption progress. Startups need to be sure that if something works in one country, it will work in every country.

ALASTRIA also gave the keys about the main challenges that SMEs have towards their digitisation. Ms. Almudena de la Mata noted that there is a need to create a sense of urgency in traditional SMEs to engage with digitalisation: “No one would send a letter if you can send an email. Digitalisation is not an option.”

Supported also by the MEP Maldonado, she pointed the importance of working with rural and local areas to connect with the European Union: “Some SMEs don’t get up to EU level and we need to connect Brussels with the local SMEs.”. The representative from ALASTRIA recommended working on capacity building and stimulating programmes like H2020 to provide them resources.

To complete this session, BLOCKCHERS Project joined BLOCKSTART and BLOCKSTART as examples of real projects and use cases directed to the spreading of the DLTs in SMEs. BLOCKCHERS Project collaborates with the transversal digitalisation and Green Deal agreements to improve the European community.

These projects have a relevant role fostering the adoption of Blockchain and DLTs by the SMEs in Europe; they offer open calls for SMEs to receive not only funding, but also mentoring, networking or technical support.

As real examples of the application and success of the support of these projects, some of the winners of the 2nd open call of BLOCKCHERS were also present in the session: Vottun, Vestigia and Datarella.

The session sought to promote collaboration with institutions through European projects to show them the results and give them experience-based clues on how to improve. At the event, policy makers stressed the relevance of being in contact with the projects and initiatives being developed in Europe, not only because they want to remove obstacles in the system, but also because they are the protagonists of the budget on which policy makers work.

PRESENTATIONS:

Vision of the future of DLTs in Europe. Initiatives at EU level.

• Mr. Daniel GASSMAN – Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, EASME.

• Mr. Rapolas LAKAVICIUS – Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. European Commission.

 

Preliminary political recommendations based in the project experience.

• Ms. Denise DUVE and Mr. Stefan SCHMITT – Frankfurt School Blockchain Center.

 

Examples of real projects and use cases directed to the spreading of the DLTs in SMEs. Acceleration programmes.

• Mr. Néstor ETXALEKU – Blockchers: Presentation

• Mr. Robert RICHTER – Blockpool: Presentation

• Mr. Joao FERNANDES –Blockstart: Presentation

 

Presentation of 3 innovative DLT application uses cases.

• Mr. Luis CARBAJO / Ms. Marta VALLES – Representatives of VOTTUN: Presentation

• Mr. José Manuel AVELINO – Representative of VESTIGIA: Presentation

• Mr. Philipp ROTHE / Ms. Rebecca JOHNSON – Representatives of Datarella: Presentation