By Marc Taverner, Executive Director of INATBA
2020 was a momentous year in many ways. We are incredibly proud of the research, surveys and events our 14 Working Groups have produced, as well as the tireless efforts of our team in Brussels to help advance blockchain technology around the world. Together with our wonderful membership, we launched cutting-edge task forces, hosted expert-led events, announced new productive partnerships and much more. We are grateful to our members and board for their support and this work could not have been possible without their participation.
Here are the highlights of an incredibly productive year:
Pandemic challenges shook the world, and we responded to the clarion call for solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic thrust modern society into a state of global turbulence. Still, it also presented several opportunities to learn and develop innovative solutions to unprecedented challenges. In March, we joined the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform and hosted two roundtable events gathering data on proposed solutions. INATBA’s Healthcare Working Group was also quick to evaluate how blockchain was being used to handle the outbreak, including the technology’s role in sharing data, securing donations, tackling misinformation and securing health records. Noting this, we moved forward in launching our own COVID Task Force in April, uniting private entities, government actors and academics to create an industry-wide intelligence engine identifying and cataloging blockchain-related solutions. Later in June, the Task Force convened a virtual roundtable with the Canadian government that spoke to the risks of relying on in-person and paper-based processes to conduct transactions and how blockchain may offer an alternative. As the pandemic progresses, we remain committed to using our platform as a force for positive change and solution-finding.
We responded to the European Commission’s MiCA regulations and are working with members of the ecosystem to develop these into mutually beneficial guidelines.
In addition to the crises posed by the pandemic, 2020 also saw an increase in governmental regulations on blockchain technologies, particularly the European Commission’s proposed MiCA regulations. After the regulations’ publication, INATBA issued a same-day initial response that noted MiCA’s comprehensive character while also paying attention to concerns about accessibility and stunting European innovation. We later held a workshop with new member X-Reg Consulting to provide more information. I remarked back in September that MiCA has the potential to enable Europe’s transformation into a leading industry actor, provided regulations aren’t overly complicated or onerous. To address concerns like these originating from ecosystem members, INATBA launched its MiCA Task Force to convene civil society organisations, private corporations and other trade associations to ensure the industry’s voice is heard. With over 90 interested members, feedback is currently being collected for analysis and later presentation to stakeholders, including Members of Parliament, the European Commission and member states.
We published several sector reports on key issues and trends in blockchain.
INATBA’s 14 Working Groups conduct research, convene events and respond to relevant matters in the ecosystem. Our Working Groups published three reports in 2020 that look at pressing issues in their sectors. In June, our Energy Working Group published a position paper for internal circulation identifying best practices, barriers to implementation and development areas for DLT and energy. Later in November, our Privacy Working Group published a report on the impact of data protection regulations on the blockchain ecosystem, analysing results from a survey they conducted. The European Commission’s DG-CONNECT invited the Working Group’s Co-Chairs for a call and presentation of the outcomes of this paper to the European Blockchain Partnership. Most recently, our Identity Working Group published a report exploring the political and economic implications of Decentralised Identity with a focus on Self-Sovereign Identity.
We formed partnerships with key members of the blockchain community.
Our work was strengthened by our collaboration and agreements with other actors in the ecosystem. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with StandICT.eu 2023 to support their work in developing a European Observatory for ICT standardisation. We also recently announced our selection for the European Commission’s CHAISE Initiative, working with other groups to design a Pan-European Strategy for Blockchain Skills. Our Energy Working Group launched a joint task force with the Global Observatory on Peer-to-Peer, Community Self-Consumption and Transactive Energy Models (GO-P2P) to study and compare DLT-enabled peer-to-peer energy trading. INATBA was also granted Liaison Category A Status within the International Organization for Standardization, allowing INATBA members to access and participate in ISO’s TC307 work on standards. Similarly, we established an initial liaison relationship with the International Telecommunication Union that offers INATBA members the opportunity to contribute to ITU’s SG16 work on standards for blockchain and the CBDC global task force.
We gathered expert guidance in response to government-led consultations and draft resolutions.
Adhering to our mission to promote transparent and clear governance on blockchain technology, we responded to a number of consultations and resolutions from government bodies. Our Identity Working Group responded to the EU Commission’s Open Public Consultation on the eIDAS Regulatory Framework. Our Interoperability WG similarly responded to a Commission consultation on the European Interoperability Framework evaluation and strategy. In response to a request from the DG Employment of the European Commission, our Education Working Group contributed to the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO’s) by adding profiles for blockchain-related professions. INATBA’s Finance Working Group in particular responded to the Crypto-assets Consultation, the New FinTech Action Plan Consultation, and the UK’s Crypto Asset Promotions Consultations and the renewed sustainable finance strategy. As a whole, we responded as an organisation to the Open Market Consultation for Blockchain Pre-Commercial Market Procurement and the Digital Services Act. In November, our Privacy WG issued a public response to the Council’s Draft Resolution on Encryption.
We convened roundtables with experts from numerous sectors in the blockchain community.
In addition to reports, our Working Groups and organisation as a whole hosted events on key topics in the blockchain ecosystem. Our Transacting Beyond Borders series coordinated by our Standards Committee and Interoperability/Governance Working Groups consisted of three events, highlighting global blockchain infrastructure, language and cultural barriers in the blockchain ecosystem and enabling and supporting large-scale DLT infrastructure. Our Real Estate Working Group examined the impact of blockchain on land registries in their two roundtables on protecting property rights, enhancing land governance and advancing economic development. In addition, our Education Working Group hosted an event on how emerging blockchain technology could improve educational institutions, focusing on the need for increased education on its usage. Given the rising demand for intervention in the climate crisis, our Climate Action Working Group hosted an event with Climate Ledger Initiative highlighting governance challenges in using blockchain for climate action, with a report to be published in early 2021. The Climate Action Working Group also joined our Energy Working Group in hosting roundtable discussions during Berlin Energy Week that spoke to how these areas could be developed into influential forces to fight climate change. We also took the time to look at financial applications of blockchain technology, including our Finance Working Group’s CBDC, Stablecoins and Seigniorage Roundtable with the ECB, IMF, BIS, World Bank and more in November and a Crypto-Asset Custody Conversation held in late September.
We responded to and held events focused on European initiatives, including a roundtable on the European Blockchain and AI Investment Fund in September and co-hosted the H2020 event series with the European Commission, including the ICT Verticals and Horizontals for Blockchain Standardisation in November. We responded to the Commission’s smart contracts proposal and subsequently held two bilateral discussions about this with the DGs CONNECT and JUST.
We made the case for blockchain and smart regulation at events and with media around the world.
Members of our Working Groups, Board and Executive Team spoke, moderated and participated in virtual conferences and webinars hosted by organisations based in places like Brazil, the US and South Korea. You can find more of these on our social media and website, with highlights including participation in a 101 Blockchains Webinar on our work as a global convener and our Working Group Co-Chairs speaking at numerous events with themes ranging from blockchain in agriculture to the supply chain. We also grew our social media presence on LinkedIn and Twitter, and launched a new website in October (with more features to come soon!)
In early December, we were highlighted in POLITICO Europe Pro’s Financial Services and MLex Market Insights with our guidance on the European Union’s proposed regulation on blockchain and DLT.
We expanded around the world.
We are proud to have 25 new members join us in 2020, including:
Dutch Blockchain Coalition, Crisp Studio, Kapilendo Custodian AG, CARGOX d.o.o., IZNES, Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, aeternity Establishment, Enduring Net (UK), Kalima Systems, SettleMint NV, MILANO GLOBAL ADVISORS srl (MGA srl), European Crowdfunding Network, Commerc.io Srl, XReg Consulting Limited, Difacturo GmbH, Lition Technology AG, IP Chain Association (National Intellectual Property Right Transactions Coordination Center), Taiwan Blockchain Alliance, Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF), Dyne.org foundation, ADAN – Association pour le Développement des Actif Numériques, Archipels, Coinfirm and AMDAX.
We also expanded our staff team, starting with my appointment as Executive Director in early February and the hiring of membership officers, working group coordinators, communications and marketing professionals, business development experts and project managers. In light of the pandemic, like many other organisations, we have been unable to meet in person at our new Brussels HQ. We instead pivoted to recruiting new staff members and working remotely as a newly formed team across the USA, UK, Belgium, Greece and the Netherlands. It is not lost on me how fortunate I am to have the support of such a dedicated and talented team to further develop INATBA for the benefit of our wonderful members.
We made plans for the future.
As 2020 draws to a close, we are looking forward with great enthusiasm and hope to 2021. We will expand our reach in many areas and are excited to continue developing the areas mentioned in this post. With events returning to in-person formats, we are excited to have INATBA present in international venues to share our work with the world. Our Working Groups are in the process of planning their 2021 action plans with several outputs expected to launch in the first months of the new year. As an industry, we expect blockchain and related technologies to continue their rapid growth and innovation and we are eager to play a role.
Despite its challenges, 2020 was a momentous year for INATBA. We extend our well wishes to the world as we ring in 2021.