EU Governments Should ‘Invest’ in Blockchain Technology, European Commission VP Says
Gene J. Koprowski April 12, 2018
The European Union should move more swiftly to invest in blockchain technology, as it is increasingly at risk of being “left behind” innovative competitors like Asia and North America, according to Andrus Ansip, the European Commission vice president.
During remarks at a conference in Brussels this week, Ansip called on the European region’s leaders to pledge “more resources to the technology sector.” This includes government and private sector firms, he said.
“If Europe wants to maintain its status as a leader in artificial intelligence in health care and other fields it has to do more, both politically and financially, in adopting and advancing blockchain technology, “ said Ansip, who was speaking at the EC’s 2018 Digital Day in Brussels.
Blockchain technology, the distributed-ledger technology, underpins most digital currencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
“Europe needs digital. We all need digital,” said Ansip. “And we need a solid investment in Europe’s digital future.”
Earlier this year, the European Commission set up the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, whose objective is to promote growth and generate ideas within the decentralized, blockchain technology community.
Government investment in blockchain is becoming increasingly common. On April 9, one-time skeptic China announced the launch of the Xiong’An Global Blockchain Innovation Fund, a 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) commitment aimed at investing in startups in the emerging field.
Ansip emphasized that it is essential, at this time, for the EU not to be left behind in this technological field.
“There is quite some ground to catch up. Other continents are moving ahead quickly,” Ansip said. “Why? Because digital technology can help save lives, encourage healthy living, bring innovation, as well as increase efficiency. Again, the driving force is data.”
Digital Single Market
Ansip said the emergence of the Digital Single Market in the EU is a primary goal, during his speech yesterday. Eliminating regulatory barriers will boost growth as will government investment.
“Without removing barriers that prevent digital growth; without the right legal environment; without adequate investment – Europe will not have much of a digital future,” Ansip said. “As we speak, a strong and functioning Digital Single Market is under construction. More than that: a new legal environment is falling into place and into effect.”
According to research by Atomico, an investment bank in the technology sector based in London, the European tech industry identifies AI and “blockchain as the areas where Europe is best positioned to play” a leading role.
“However, it is no secret that we have to invest – both politically and financially. There is quite some ground to catch up. Other continents are moving ahead quickly. I would like to see EU countries make a commitment to blockchain technologies – now moving out of the lab and going mainstream. As with AI: we should make the most of this new opportunity to innovate.”
Government investment can only do so much in this realm, he said. “Our public purse only goes so far. It represents about 1% of the wealth that EU economies generate every year. National governments and the private sector need to contribute too,” Ansip said. “The future-oriented areas I have mentioned today require significant funding if we are to make the most of them. Funding not only for today and tomorrow, but far into the next decade as well.”
In the coming months, new privacy directives are becoming law in the EU. Blockchain could be useful in this regard, maintaining data privacy, as mandated, by law. Europe must transform research into specific products and services that will directly strengthen its cybersecurity. To achieve this will require more EU funding: to develop strong cybersecurity capacities that will protect the Digital Single Market and defend our security more broadly,” said Ansip.
According to Ansip, with the new data economy proposal, there are now 14 Commission legislative initiatives on the table which the European Parliament and the Council need to adopt to further build the Digital Single Market.