Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) enable parties who are geographically distant or have no particular trust in each other to interact and exchange value and information on a peer-to-peer basis with fewer to non-existent central intermediaries. Beyond well-known applications in the financial sector, new developments are emerging in other fields. The broader potential of DLTs to change how businesses operate at industrial and market levels for instance, in particular how they produce and deliver goods and services, is swiftly becoming a tangible reality.
DLTs' ground-breaking properties allow immutable, near-tamper proof, decentralized and real time mechanisms for enabling, storing and securing nearly any type of data-based transaction or process. DLTs provide opportunities in terms of communication, efficiency, security, reliability and transparency, such as helping to reduce fraud and counterfeiting, lowering operational costs, enhancing safety and efficiency of transactions, or automating digital manufacturing operations.
Some applications are already being developed in the fields of B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business), where they are illustrating the potential of radical organizational shifts towards more collaborative and automated processes. But, at the same time, such deployments within these and other business or industrial fields are also presenting a number of challenges which may impede the uptake of DLTs by SMEs, ranging from interoperability, standards and intellectual property to liability, data protection, algorithmic accountability and reliability of automated systems.
The Action will be a piloting scheme for the uptake of DLTs by SMEs. It will aim at testing in real conditions the opportunities, challenges, risks and necessary conditions associated with DLTs in different context and sectors. Thereby it will stimulate (i) the uptake of DLTs by SMEs and inspire others to follow, and equally (ii) it will sensitize intermediaries to develop their expertise in this respect and (iii) it will help draw lessons for policy makers and regulators.
It will include and make use of financial support to third parties to allow for 20-30 SMEs to test concrete applications of DLTs in their respective field with technology suppliers (budget for each third party not exceeding EUR 50,000). The selection of entities involved in the pilots, the match-making process, the monitoring of each case as well as the management of the financial support to third parties will be ensured by the coordinator. At least 50% of the total proposed budget shall be allocated to financial support to third parties (please refer to the grant conditions for this topic).
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 1.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
- More SMEs take advantage of the opportunities offered by DLTs.
- More intermediaries are familiar with DLTs and equipped to assist SMEs in this field.
- Improved framework conditions for the uptake of DLTs and the mitigation of related risks.
Illustration Photo: Bottling plant (credits: TU Lankide / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))