This article provides critical excerpts from the deliverable. The impact assessment is based on a detailed analysis of the project’s achievements in technological advancements, business impact, portfolio integration, and scientific contributions. Through an evaluation framework, the report highlights the collective success of the funded projects and their significant role in shaping TruBlo’s overall impact.
The role of blockchain technology across various industries
The report also details the diverse applications of blockchain technology across industries. For instance, the media sector has explored blockchain technology in various ways, including digital rights management and content distribution. The report highlights notable case studies and uses cases that emerged in 2023, showcasing the diverse applications of blockchain technology. For example, the report highlights the critical role of reliable information in various sectors, including aviation, agriculture, the fight against mis- and disinformation, and security in IoT. The TruBlo project’s innovative application of blockchain technology to the wide content area, including content creation, reliability, trustability, and monetization, addresses these challenges and drives innovation in the blockchain ecosystem.
European Perspective on Blockchain Investments
The European blockchain and crypto sector within FinTech experienced extreme growth in the past five years and started to cool off in 2023, with deal activity and investment dropping significantly. According to the report by FinTech Global, European Blockchain & Crypto deal activity is on track to reach 322 deals in 2023, a 35% drop year-over-year. In the first half of 2023, the European Blockchain & Crypto deal activity amounted to 161 transactions, demonstrating a 49% decrease compared to the same period in 2022.
This decline in deal activity and investment can be attributed to several factors, including a general drop in funding and a decrease in the hype around blockchain and crypto. The cooling off in the European Blockchain & Crypto sector reflects a broader trend in the global market, as indicated by the FinTech Global report , which reports a fall in blockchain and crypto funding in 2023.
Looking ahead to 2024, the blockchain industry is expected to continue its growth trajectory, albeit with some shifts in focus. According to industry experts , the focus in 2024 is likely to be on scalability, interoperability, and sustainability. As blockchain technology continues to mature, there will be an increased emphasis on addressing scalability challenges to support a larger number of transactions and users.
Interoperability will also be a key area of focus in 2024 as the industry seeks to enhance the seamless interaction between different blockchain networks and platforms. This will be crucial for driving widespread adoption and ensuring the efficient transfer of assets and data across diverse blockchain ecosystems.
Context: The blockchain industry grew in 2023 despite global economic uncertainty. Investments in blockchain also continued to grow, with larger deals becoming more common. However, in Europe, blockchain investments experienced a decline in 2023. The global economic uncertainty had a mixed impact on blockchain investments, with some seeing blockchain technology as a potential solution to economic challenges. In contrast, others were uncertain about the economic path forward.
The diverse applications of blockchain technology across industries further underscored its potential to drive innovation and address complex challenges. As the industry continues to evolve, monitoring the interplay between blockchain investments and the global economic landscape is essential.
Blockchain technology continues to evolve and gain momentum in various industries since its inception in 2008.
- In the long term, elements of blockchain technology have the potential to change the current set-up of digital information profoundly. Further, the cross-section of trust, content and future technologies for storage, identification, verification, etc., such as blockchain, remains a key field where research and innovation are needed.
- Essential concepts include decentralization, tokens for ownership or payments and smart contracts. Eventually, this will lead to new approaches to providing and using digital information; potentially, the changes will let the internet evolve into web3.
- But to get there, there is a latent demand for “future blockchains”, which need to be (1) more secure against theft or hacking and (2) more straightforward to use and maintain. In addition, there is a need to see one or several blockchain-based media offerings grow strongly.
- Currently, blockchain has multiple problems: There are many competing concepts and approaches, and speculative crypto projects overshadow the entire blockchain community.
- As for 2023, it seems the most relevant area of further development for blockchain beyond crypto is the management of banking assets. Blockchain applications could help transfer large amounts faster and more efficiently. This at least seems to be the prospect when looking at current hiring for blockchain specialists, driven by demand from large banks, most of them located in the US.
Key features of blockchain relevant for TruBlo
The combination of content with blockchain technology can fundamentally change digital content (including text, photos, videos, audio, animations, and raw data):
- Using reliable timestamps in connection with the blockchain can help search and filter duplicated, non-original or falsified content.
- Content theft of texts and visuals can be reduced by adding blockchain timestamps for provenance or verification of origin.
- Tokenization can help to redefine ownership. Authors, photographers and musicians can directly connect to their users/buyers. Royalties can be paid in weeks, not years.
- Important documents such as land registrations can be fully transparent, digital workflows for information, documents can be sheltered against tampering.
- The collection of data for IoT or delivery chains can become more trustable and immutable .
- Ultimately, blockchain can open the door to “distributed trust” where the network can be trusted, regardless of whether we know the participants, and where participants’ reputation can be transparently managed .
Based on the analysis, we conclude that the main topic and research direction of TruBlo towards “trustable content on future blockchains” is still highly relevant. How content is generated, presented, used and verified – all those aspects are fundamental, and blockchain technology provides the means to address the challenge decisively.
Impact on TruBlo projects
For TruBlo projects, the current situation has immediate effects. The willingness of investors to fund blockchain ideas has notably changed towards caution. TruBlo is focused on the innovative application of blockchain technology to a wide content area, including content creation, reliability, trustability, and monetization. The key takeaways are:
- So far, no commercial or open-source platform with a distinctly European approach to “trustable content!”
- Conversely, the need for trustable content and secure information provision without privacy concerns remains relevant and will potentially be a key topic for the next ten years. Digital data and information are so critical for humanity that the current shortcomings, the many options to falsify and distort the truth and facts, are a considerable threat to democracy.
- The attention in the content area has shifted away from blockchain to the use cases with generative AI (such as ChatGPT). But it can already be seen that this new machine-generated content might result in many new issues, even the critical prospect of “automated propaganda”.
- In summary, the work on reliable information for aviation, agriculture, and the fight against mis- and disinformation or security in IoT is highly relevant and still needs much further work. Even if the current situation makes it more challenging for early-stage blockchain projects to become sustainable, TruBlo has become a valuable tool to overcome such difficulties.
- As a result, TruBlo has shown informative and relevant early-stage results (positive and negative) to the European science and entrepreneurial community, aiming to have the learnings also considered in future projects.
The impact assessment of the funded projects has been conducted based on a set of defined criteria, encompassing both individual project performance and collective contributions to the project portfolio. The following parameters have been used to evaluate the success and impact of the initiatives:
- Technological Advancements: This parameter measures the level of technological innovation achieved by each project, including measuring technical milestones and breakthroughs. The Technology Readiness Level Self-Assessment methodology was used to self-assess each project’s technical level and progress.
- Business Impact: This parameter evaluates each project’s economic viability and business development. It includes the analysis of the achievement of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) status. The TruBlo Outcome Survey was administered to all funded projects to gather standardized information, allowing for quantitative analysis and comparison across different projects.
- Portfolio Integration: This parameter assesses how each project contributed to the collective portfolio of results. It includes the evaluation of synergies and dependencies among funded projects, as well as the overall impact on the TruBlo portfolio from the technology and scientific perspectives.
- Scientific Impact: This parameter measures the scientific advancements achieved by each project. It includes the scientific challenges in TruBlo, such as data trust, reputation, evaluation, proof of location, and proof of validity. The Outcomes Survey was used to gather answers and cross-reference them with the evolution of the Scientific Readiness Level of each project.
These criteria provided a comprehensive framework to assess the impact from different perspectives, the outcomes achieved by the funded initiatives, and their collective contribution to the project’s success.
A key question for any portfolio investment is: How far did the projects contribute individually and collectively to the TruBlo portfolio? The question may be answered from at least three perspectives: the technological outcomes, the scientific challenges and the business impact. Based on the data sources previously mentioned, such as the Innovation Readiness Level Self-Assessment or the TruBlo Outcomes survey, the following sections analyse the project’s impact from those three perspectives.
The following chart shows the highest level of technology readiness the projects achieved. Of the 45 funded projects, 22 achieved to get to Technology Readiness Levels between 6 and 9, which must be considered a very good outcome in technical terms. Most of the projects that only achieved level 3 or 4 were scientific projects where the main scope was the exploration of research concepts, not a market-orientated platform.
In addition to this general perspective on the TRL achieved by the projects, we can dive into more details considering the technological contributions of the projects to the TruBlo portfolio. The TruBlo White Paper, deliverable D5.6, described the different groups of technologies that compose the TruBlo portfolio, based on blockchain technologies:
- Digital Identity: Blockchain-based digital identity
- AI/ML/Deep fakes: AI-powered trust and reputation models on content and Proof-of-Location
- Cloud/Fog/IoT: Trustworthy computing continuum ecosystem
- Off chain data/IPFS: Data sharing, management, and curation workflows for heterogeneous systems
- Web3/NFTs/Oracles: Empowered blockchain use cases
Looking at the leading technologies addressed by each project, deeply detailed in their respective Technical Reports and also declared in the Outcomes Survey, we can derive the evolution of TRLs for each group of technologies. The following figure shows how the TRL of each GT has evolved, differentiating between projects that only participated in Phase 1 from projects that participated in both phases.
Two main conclusions can be extracted from this analysis:
- As expected, the projects participating in the two phases had more opportunities to evolve their technology and achieve higher TRLs.
- The groups of technologies that have achieved higher TRLs, GT1, GT2 and GT4, are the ones that are more directly linked to the TruBlo objective to enhance content trustworthiness and to the TruBlo technical outcomes as detailed in deliverable D3.5.
This analysis shows that the TruBlo projects fostered innovation and achieved tangible technological progress in technologies crucial for ensuring trust and reliability in digital content.
The scientific challenges addressed in TruBlo and their outcomes have been described in the TruBlo White Paper (deliverable D5.6) and deliverable D3.5, respectively. These scientific challenges can be classified into the following interest areas:
- Data trust
- Proof of location
- Proof of validity
The Outcomes Survey also addressed those scientific areas, and by crossing the gathered answers with the evolution of the Scientific Readiness Level of each project, we can derive the impact of TruBlo in the advancement on those scientific areas. The following figure shows how the SRL of each scientific area has evolved, differentiating between projects that only participated in Phase 1 from projects that participated in both phases.
While when analysing technological impact, the differentiation between projects that only participated in Phase 1 from projects that participated in both phases was relevant, in the case of scientific impact, such differentiation is less relevant since most of the scientific work took part in the first phase. In contrast, the second phase was mainly devoted to technology development. Considering that only eight projects out of 45 self-declared as “scientific” (see D5.6 TruBlo White Paper), the scientific advancements achieved are relevant regarding SRL and the number of scientific publications produced throughout the project.
The following chart shows how close the projects came to MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This level is usually the starting point for market exploration and extended user testing.
FIGURE: MVP ACHIEVEMENTS
Based on the TruBlo Outcomes Survey answers, more than half of the projects achieved successful pilot tests, while a third of the projects even managed to establish strategic partnerships. Some projects had to re-adjust their project due to the changing market environment, but more than half of them still managed to develop an MVP with the new approach during the project timeframe.
For this survey question, it was possible to leave comments, for example, to clarify why a particular outcome was or was not possible. On the one hand, several projects stated that they had expected to reach round two of the funding process. Still, since they were not selected and did not receive additional funding, they had to stop their activities and could not develop a prototype. However, on the other hand, other projects managed to receive additional funding from sources other than TruBlo.
TruBlo invested 4,2 million into early-stage projects. An important question is: Did this activity help the participating companies to get additional funding? And what amounts did they get?
The TruBlo Outcomes survey asked dedicated questions about additional funding. Based on their replies, the TruBlo activity generated at least 5,3 million euros of additional funding. The funding sources consisted of venture capital investments, angel investments, and funding for additional doctoral positions for the scientific partners. It must be noted that answers to the question were not mandatory since early-stage investments are often not published as to the amounts. Similarly, the estimate is difficult for the scientific projects because other funding might only be indirectly related to their participation in TruBlo. In this respect, the Outcomes Survey asked for direct or indirect additional funding sources, where indirect funding refers to funding applied for similar work in blockchain but not from TruBlo. The following chart shows the results that we got from the survey.
FIGURE: PROJECTS WITH ADDITIONAL FUNDING FROM OTHER SOURCES
The projects that received additional funding were asked about the origin of that additional funding.
FIGURE: SOURCES OF ADDITIONAL FUNDING
The TruBlo project has successfully advanced the state of the art in blockchain technology, particularly in its application to trustable content. This impact assessment report has provided compelling evidence of the project’s achievements in various key areas, including technological advancements, business impact, portfolio integration, and scientific impact. These findings emphasise the project’s substantial contribution to the broader blockchain technology landscape and its applications.
The evaluation criteria utilized in this impact assessment report have not only facilitated the assessment of individual project outcomes but have also reflected on the collective impact of the funded projects to the success of TruBlo. This approach has allowed for a complete understanding of how the projects have collectively contributed to the project’s overall success, providing valuable insights into the effectiveness of the project’s strategy and portfolio management.
Furthermore, the project’s success in achieving significant technological milestones and fostering business development highlights the importance of continued support and monitoring, particularly in response to the dynamic nature of market environments. As a result, the TruBlo project has advanced the field of blockchain technology and laid the groundwork for continued innovation and growth in trusted content and blockchain applications.