European Innovation Council Awards €5 Million to Blockchain Solutions for Social Innovations

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The European Innovation Council (EIC) Prize on Blockchains for Social Good has awarded €5 million to six winners selected in a call to identify scalable, deployable and high-impact blockchain solutions for societal challenges. The winning solutions propose blockchain applications for fair trade and circular economy, increasing transparency in production processes and quality information, improving accountability and contributing to financial inclusion as well as renewable energy.

Blockchains for Social Good

The goal of the prize on Blockchains for Social Good was to recognise and support the efforts made by developers and civil society in exploring the applications of blockchains in the area of social innovation. The prize proposed to cover areas such as: traceability and fair trade; financial inclusion; decentralised circular economy; transparency of public processes; participation in democratic decision-making; and management of public records.

The prize sought to award 1 million euros to the five innovators that come up with the most promising blockchain solutions in five different social innovation areas.

Maria Gabriel

Maria Gabriel

Maria Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation Research, Culture, Education and Youth commended the projects,

“I warmly congratulate all the winners. The proposed solutions show how blockchain can create positive social change by supporting fair trade, increasing transparency in production processes and e-commerce and contributing to financial inclusion by exploring decentralised economic structures. I hope that this award can help upscale these outstanding ideas and inspire many others innovators.”

Thierry Breton

Thierry Breton

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market noted,

“Participation from 43 countries in the prize on Blockchains for Social Good has shown us the potential to address local and global challenges with blockchain technology that offers decentralised, trusted and transparent solutions. Europe has to fully recognise and support European technological innovations to address both industrial and sustainability challenges.”

The winning applications

  • Quality Content: WordProof (by Dutch SME WordProof B.V.) developed the WordProof Timestamp Ecosystem, a technology able to prove authenticity and to make information verifiable, which ultimately would be leading to more trust in internet content. With the timestamps, content owners can show that they did not tamper with their content, and the history of changes becomes verifiable for both humans and machines. It is proposed as a free browser plugin.
  • Traceability & Fair Trade: PPP (by UK social enterprise Project Provenance Ltd) developed Proof Points to allow businesses to prove their social impact across the supply chains behind their business and products.
  • Financial Inclusion: GMeRitS (by Finnish university Aalto) is conducting wide scale experiments with alternative economic structures, to try and evaluate various anti-rival compensation and governance structures, contributing to financial inclusion.
  • Aid & Philanthropy: the UnBlocked Cash Project OXBBU (by Irish Oxfam and French startup Sempo) pioneers a decentralized model to address the global challenge of delivering international aid to disaster-affected women and men in ways that are more efficient, transparent and sustainable.
  • Decentralised Circular Economy: CKH2020 (by French cooperative Kleros) is a platform for resolving consumer disputes in e-commerce or collaborative economy. Blockchain guarantees that no party can tamper with the evidence nor manipulate jury selection and that rulings are automatically enforced by smart contracts.
  • Energy: PROSUME (by Italian Prosume srl) is a DLT-based platform providing a decentralized and autonomous digital marketplace for peer-to-peer energy trading. Its goal is to integrate prosumers – consumers who are also producers of renewable energy- in the so far highly monopolised and fossils-based energy sector.

This list indicates six winning applications, instead of five as originally foreseen. This is because the last two applications finished ex-aequo, and the jury recommended funding both of them (by splitting equally the 5th prize), all the more as they belonged to 2 different areas. In this way, the final scope of the prize extends to six different areas.

It is worth pointing out that one of the requirements of the prize was to submit solutions developed in Open Source. This will enable more innovators to benefit from the advanced technological solutions developed by the prize winners and the other participants in the prize.

A successful prize

The call for the prize opened on 16 May 2018 and closed on 3 September 2019. 176 applications were received from 43 countries (19 of which outside the EU), which addressed fairly well all the six areas indicated in the call, and 13 additional areas proposed by the applicants themselves (as allowed by the Rules of Contest). As for the categories of applicants, 10% of the proposals originated from individuals, 10% from public institutions (mostly universities, but also Red Cross, Oxfam, foundations) and nearly 80% from start-ups and SMEs.

The evaluation was organised in two steps. Following a preselection in November 2019, the 23 best applications were invited to a final hearing with the Jury on 10 February 2020. It is interesting to note that nearly half of the areas covered by the selected applications (Quality Content, Aid & Philanthropy, Energy, Health) are new areas related to Sustainable Development Goals (DGs), which were not foreseen of the prize in 2016.

In parallel to the hearing, the 23 finalists were invited to present and discuss their solutions at a public workshop, which attracted more than 170 participants. The event sought to give public visibility not only to the prize winners but also to all finalist applications, and to generate further community discussion on the potential of blockchains to support social innovation.

While the revolutionary potential of blockchains has been tested in the financial domain in particular, its possible applications in social domains and to address sustainability challenges have been explored far less.The results of this prize are very important for the development of the Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative, which will continue to explore the potential of Blockchain in new application areas, in particular to address local and global sustainability challenges in relation to the SDGs.

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