EU4Digital ICT Innovation hosted an online networking event on 30 March 2023 to support the development of a blockchain ecosystem in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region. Blockchain associations, industry players, key innovation ecosystem actors and EaP government representatives discussed opportunities to join and cooperate with the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA) and its leading partnerships.
More than 50 participants represented around 30 EaP organisations, including the central banks involved in the development of a regulatory framework; blockchain associations; IT business associations including FinTech businesses; start-ups and industry players in the area of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs); educational community organisations with a blockchain focus, as well as ministerial-level representatives and agencies coordinating the development of innovation ecosystems in the Eastern partner countries.
The ultimate goal of the event was to support the integration of EaP blockchain associations and policymakers into the community of thought leaders and similar EU organisations, which could foster a positive change in the regulation and development of an innovation-friendly blockchain ecosystem in the Eastern partner countries.
Diving into the blockchain ecosystem
Rūta Šalvytė-Tamošiūnienė, EU4Digital Facility Deputy Team Leader, opened by explaining the event’s aims and by introducing the EU4Digital programme. Margherita Leder, Member of the Board of Directors of INATBA, then prepared the audience to dive into the rich environment of INATBA and its global activity.
INATBA was launched to create the environment where blockchain solutions can flourish, …where we can have an open conversation with regulators and policymakers on how this technology is changing the market and how it impacts the workforce.Margherita Leder, Member of the Board of Directors of INATBA
Tonia Damvakeraki, Manager at the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, gave an overview of the principles and elements of the EU Blockchain strategy, which is supported by significant funding and public-private partnership, allowing many innovative solutions to be tested. She cited the European Commission blockchain strategy for the EU to become a technology leader and explained the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum’s role. This is an EC initiative to accelerate blockchain innovation and the development of the blockchain ecosystem within the EU. Alongside INATBA, the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum provides a channel for the Commission to interact with the blockchain community, private sector and academia. It also hosts a map of blockchain initiatives that are government-, corporate- or start-up supported, including some from EaP countries.
INATBA opportunities and benefits
In the second part of the event, Ricardo Simões, Executive Director of INATBA, introduced the organisation. This global association of companies, public bodies and academics was launched by the EC with 105 founding members. He shared how INATBA addresses misconceptions and lack of awareness about blockchain technology in practical terms. The association’s distinctive value proposition is to address the needs of businesses, from start-ups to big industry players, as well as those of the academic community and regulators working on the DLT agenda. “This approach enables the interlinkage and the shared knowledge of industry, the public sector, academia and research”, he said. It also helps to elaborate the collective positions and ensure the credibility of INATBA with regulatory authorities and policymakers. This results in practical contributions and the impact of INATBA on many critical regulations related to blockchain, but also to trust services and the skills agenda.
Next, Bara Greplova, Government Advisory Body / Academic Advisory Body & Members Engagement Manager at INATBA, took the event participants on a deeper dive into the organisation’s operational setting and collaboration opportunities for Eastern partner stakeholders. She shared an overview of the advisory bodies’ work in 2022-23 and the opportunities for policymakers to engage. She also explained the joining criteria and benefits of membership in INATBA working groups on finance, education, identity, privacy, social impact and sustainability as well as the Standards Committee, and showed key work highlights for 2023.
Morgane Stein, Partnerships & Membership Recruitment Manager at INATBA, further elaborated on the value proposition to industry players. This embraces a number of tools available to members and a wide spectrum of services – from regulatory developments to use cases’ promotion and market intelligence contributions. She also invited EaP national blockchain associations to discuss possible synergies and collaborations, based on memorandums of understanding.
Sharing experience and advice
The event culminated in INATBA members and partners sharing their collaboration experiences, in a discussion moderated by Bara Greplova.
- Gustavo Prieto, FWO Senior Researcher at Ghent University and INATBA Academic Advisory Body Member, shared a positive impression of engaging with work of public-private bodies at INATBA. There is space to discuss practical issues and integrate with the broader community, with pluralism of opinions, he said. He gave an example of working on common vocabulary for developing standards in the area of blockchain.
- Mariana de la Roche, Senior Regulatory Affairs Expert at IOTA Foundation and co-chair of the INATBA Social Impact and Sustainability Working Group, presented the collaborative work done and explained that IOTA started to work with INATBA to overcome isolation in certain specific topics. Communities in the area of blockchain develop in a “bubbling” way, she explained, and “even if you are inside a bubble, you are still isolated”. It was good for IOTA to get to the “middle of the bubbling”, especially on the topic of the regulatory setting.
- Tonia Damvakeraki, Manager at the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, shared her experience in the joint preparation of reports and events organisation, which allowed the identification of interesting practical use cases and the mobilisation of experts.
Live discussion with EaP invitees was a feature of the event. This covered many practical issues raised by the participating companies, regulators and associations. Responding to a question about interesting cases for blockchain solutions in the regulatory area, Tonia Damvakeraki advised all participants to familiarise themselves with the European blockchain regulatory sandbox for Distributed Ledger Technologies. This contains key information regarding the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure, innovative cross-border public sector blockchain services and opportunities for developers.
Following an enquiry about how regulatory bodies can potentially contribute to or benefit from cooperation with INATBA, Bara Greplova explained the primary benefit of joining the government advisory body: access to a network of regulators and public sector representatives working at various stages of blockchain adoption across the world. Joining the working groups also has value, in allowing participants to hear the voices of industry and practitioners.
How to follow up
In conclusion, the event moderator Anna Pobol, EU4Digital ICT Innovation stream lead, thanked the speakers for their openness to new cooperation with EaP stakeholders. She mentioned that EU4Digital Facility in partnership with INATBA have produced a detailed guide on joining INATBA, describing the value proposition and membership eligibility and conditions.
Bara Greplova confirmed that INATBA is also open to considering non-standard types of collaboration, such as implementation of joint projects, TAIEX and TWINNING partnerships and mentorship of central banks and blockchain associations in EaP countries. She invited EaP stakeholders to reach out for discussion.
See the event agenda and the guide on joining INATBA and view the speakers’ presentation slides: