European Blockchain Convention, Barcelona 2020, throwback

The 3rd European Blockchain Convention (EBC) took place on the 20–21 of January in World Trade Center Barcelona with an ambitious agenda.

The day started amid the Gloria storm, a real challenge after being bound to change the venue two days before, due to a fire in the venue where the convention was meant to take place. Thanks to the fast communication everybody received the notice just in time and we could start the event with full attendance.

World Trade Center Barcelona. Image via WTC Barcelona’s website

After the welcome of the founders, Victoria Gago and Daniel Salmerón, first on the agenda was the ‘Digital Society & Identity: Blockchain for Public Sector’ panel with Albi Rodriguez Jaramillo, Belen Arribas Sanchez, Oscar Burgos, and Pelle Brændgaard as speakers, moderated by Stefan Junestrad.

‘Much has been written about Blockchain and its legal regime. While many think that presently there is no law applicable to blockchain, the truth is that like for any other business or economic activity, the whole corpus of law applies to blockchain technology and related projects’ says Belén Arribas, Partner at Andersen Tax & Legal in Spain.

‘Those of us who specialize in digital and privacy law are concerned about the challenges posed by certain areas of law. One of those challenges is posed by data protection legislation. Because a certain incompatibility between DLT technologies and the General Data Protection Regulation seems to be in the spirit and operation of such technologies, (as they are decentralized technologies that allow data to be stored and processed without necessarily being clearly identified the parties involved in such operations), we understand that the debate on possible shortfalls is relevant’ continues Belén Arribas.

As Stefan Junestrad, member of the EU Blockchain Observatory, points out: ‘The main takeaway of the panel was that the Digital Identity should be considered the single most important key enabling functionality to achieve a broader adoption of Blockchain solutions within the Public Sector. There is no doubt that there must be found an equilibrium between technology, government and regulation having transparency as the centre of innovations without rushing, but going step by step and experiment the best ways of adaptation’.

Panel ‘Digital Society & Identity: Blockchain for Public Sector’. Photo by EBC

Moving on with the panels, ‘Financial Markets Infrastructure & Services within the DLT era’ was next on the agenda with the participation of Maria Concepción de Monteverde (Blockchain Director at Banco Santander), Scott King (Blockchain Research Product Owner at ING), Carlos Arena (Head of Business Development at R3) and Ciarán McGonagle (Assistant General Counsel at ISDA), moderated by Victoria Gago (Co-Founder of the European Blockchain Convention).

As Ciaran McGonagle summarises: ‘It is clear that good progress has been made with respect to the use of DLT and related technologies in the financial markets. It was interesting to hear about some of the pilot applications that have been developed for bond issuances and the use of DLT within trade finance. While the technology is evolving, it is important that market participants continue to focus on the development and implementation of the standards upon which these products and services will be based”.

“Our work at ISDA has focused upon the development of these standards within the derivatives industry. Agreeing common legal, documentation, process and data standards through initiatives such as the ISDA Common Domain Model will create the foundation for the development and implementation of DLT-based technology solutions within the derivatives market. These and similar technology applications such as smart contracts and artificial intelligence can all help to create a more robust financial markets infrastructure, achieve operational efficiencies and reduce costs for dealers and end-users”, continues Ciaran McGonagle.

Panel ‘Financial Markets Infrastructure & Services within the DLT era’. Photo by EBC

As a conclusion, we can say that we are 2–3 years from seeing these securities issued as normal standards. The tokenization of the physical world lies ahead which will radically change the way we do processes.

This leads us to the next panel addressing the issue of the ‘Central Bank Digital Currencies & Innovation in Payments’. The discussion was moderated by Gonzalo Pérez del Arco (Director Government Affairs South Europe at American Express Europe) and was composed by Michael Kumhof (Senior Research Advisor at Bank of England), Dirk Bullmann (Innovation Team Lead at European Central Bank) and Mathias Pilkis (Senior Advisor to the Board at Bank of Lithuania).

Gonzalo Pérez del Arco points out that one of the take-aways is that “the European Central Bank announced its plans of getting a pan European payment solution that would compete with international solutions and bring more choice for consumers into the market”.

Panel ‘Central Bank Digital Currencies & Innovation in Payments’. Photo by EBC

After a quick break to recharge energy it was time to talk about the ‘Regulation in the evolving Payments Landscape in Europe.’ This panel was moderated by Tim Smith (Correspondent at Sifted) and the speakers who have participated were: Carlos Carriedo (Senior Vice President at American Express Europe), Peter Kerstens (Directorate-General for Financial Services and Capital Markets at European Commission) and Judith Arnal (Directora del Gabinete Técnico at Secretaría General del Tesoro y Financiación Internacional).

Gonzalo Pérez del Arco’s main take-away from this panel is that “PSD2 represents an important step for the payments ecosystem. Innovation in payments is of key importance and although cash will still be present for a while, there will be more implementations on payments potentially through future sovereign digital currencies. Regulation on payments needs to set a real Level Playing Field and to avoid a “One Size Fits All” model, especially in a moment in which new players will appear and that current regulation did not meet the objective of bringing more competition and consumer choice”.

Panel ‘Regulation in the evolving Payments Landscape in Europe’. Photo by EBC

The following panel was ‘Blockchain in Supply Chain & Logistics’, moderated by Marc Gallardo (RSM) and the speakers that took part were Pradipa Karbhari (Director of Azure Partner Growth at Microsoft), Sunny Lu (Co-founder & CEO at VeChain), Jordi Torrent (Open Innovation Manager Grupo Damm) and Javier Gallardo (Director at Portic Barcelona).

Laia Ruiz, IT & Blockchain Consultant at RSM, points out that “a shared opinion among the speakers of the panel was that in Supply Chain, blockchain adds value by eliminating of a lot of paperwork, increasing control, tracing products and avoiding possible fraud”.

Panel ‘Blockchain in Supply Chain & Logistics’. Photo by EBC

Sunny Lu (Co-founder & CEO at VeChain) offers a new point of view where the old mentality of “my process has been working for many years”, begins to quickly fade away:

“As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, more and more enterprises have seen the disruptions of supply chain and interruptions of business processes, which has showcased the value of digital transformation and called for more time and investment to accelerate it. Under the unprecedented demand for digitalization, the blockchain technology that serves as the underlying infrastructure powering digital transition has emerged as an advanced option for enterprise decision-makers”, points out Sunny Lu.

“On the other hand, the COVID-19 outbreak has raised enormous public awareness on product authentication, transparency of the supply chain management especially on those products that related to their day-to-day life. A significant shift in consumer behaviour has been observed that people now have a greater appetite for buying products online and mobile applications”, follows Sunny Lu.

Panel ‘Blockchain in Supply Chain & Logistics’. Photo by EBC

The key question set by Isabella Galeano, Founder of The Technologist, moderator of the panel ‘Trends in the Global Legal Landscape of Distributed Ledger Technology’ was: Will there be a standardisation of regulation?

“It would be likeable, but it is hard to create a global regulation, one legislation for all cases would require harmonising all legal systems in the world. Nevertheless, as Joshua Klayman (Head of Blockchain & Digital Assets at Linklaters) states in regards to payment tokens, we will see more mainstream interest and eventually see more adoption in various areas in the world”, explains Isabella Galeano.

Sue McLean (Global Tech Lead for FinTech & Blockchain at Baker Mckenzie), Nacho Alamillo (General Manager at Astrea) and Joey Garcia (Partner and Lawyer at Isolas) also brought very interesting points of view about this topic.

Panel ‘Trends in the Global Legal Landscape of Distributed Ledger Technology’. Photo by EBC

After the networking lunch, the day continued with the panel ‘Security Tokens - Enabling new Business Models’, moderated by Mai Santamaria (Head of Financial Advisory Unit, Department of Finance, Rep. of Ireland) and
accompanied by the speakers Robert Weiko (COO at Dash Core Group), Amandine Doat (Legal Director & Head of Public Policy at Ledger), Thomas Borrel (CPO at Polymath) and Jorge Serna (VP of Product Strategy at Securitize).

“The industry, including regulators, are moving at an incredible speed, however, there are still open questions that need to be addressed, especially when it comes to blockchain and GDPR”, states Thomas Borrel.

“It was really refreshing to share the situation of the Digital Securities space with other industry participants. I think it was good to open around the issues coming from some of the main promises of the space, like liquidity for private securities which traditionally have been illiquid. Liquidity comes at a price, because it also brings transparency, which may be more valuable for some actors (investors) than others (issuers). At the end of the panel we only touched the capabilities that “programmable assets” brings with it, and that I believe will drive the next focus on the Digital Securities roadmap”, remarked Jorge Serna.

Panel ‘Security Tokens — Enabling new Business Models’. Photo by EBC

During the afternoon, the panel ‘Optimization of business processes with Blockchain in the Energy and Infrastructure sectors’ took place, moderated by Alex Armengol (Exponential Innovator at DLT & Company) and speakers team: Jose Minguez (Head of Innovation Market Iberia at Endesa), Jesús Ruiz (CTO at Alastria Blockchain Ecosystem), Antonio Maroto (Head of Innovation & Blockchain specialist at DXC Technology) and Gilberto Florez (Strategy, Architecture and IT Trends Director at Ferrovial).

Antonio Maroto concludes that “during the panel discussion we were able to contribute with a very advanced and innovative technical perspective thanks to the initiatives that we are leading with some of our clients, including some of the companies participating in the panel”.

Panel ‘Optimization of business processes with Blockchain in the Energy and Infrastructure sectors’. Photo by EBC

The program of the day continued with the ‘Blockchain for Healthcare and Data’ panel, led by the speakers Ivan Basart (CTO at Validated ID), Anca Petre (Digital Health & Blockchain Researcher at 23 Consulting), Luis Mulero (Business Development at SafeXain) and moderated by Magda Rosenmöller (Professor at IESE).

Henry Daunert (CEO at SafeXain) believes that “blockchain technology is improving healthcare industry, by adding more layers of data-governance, improving processes, and building more robust solutions. Blockchain is helping to develop new relationship models between service providers and health administration. Blockchain is allowing users to take back control of their data and medical history”.

Panel ‘Blockchain for Healthcare and Data’. Photo by EBC

The panel of ‘State of Technical aspects of Blockchain was moderated by Juan Caubet’ (Director of the IT Security Unit at Eurecat) and the speakers involved were: María Salgado (Blockchain Manager at Informática el Corte Inglés, IECISA), Pavel Kravchenko (Co-Founder & CEO at Distributed Labs), Henning Lexon (CEO at Lexon Foundation) and Bruno Skvorc (Technical Educator at Web3 Foundation).

About interoperability between networks and Self-Sovereign Identity, María Salgado concludes that “there are still many challenges to be solved and the developers and architects are still in a pre-competition phase of collaboration and basis construction. Alastria ID is an example of this and I underline the interest that it aroused among the participants in the convention”. María also states that “the terminological discussion from different points of view with the other speakers was very enriching and shows there is hard work ahead in standards definition to ensure interoperability”.

Panel: State of Technical aspects of Blockchain. Photo by EBC

The European Blockchain Convention closed the day with the panel ‘Misunderstanding of when to use Blockchain’ moderated by Henrik Hvid (Senior Advisor at Trustworks) and accompanied by the speakers Luis Meijueiro (Head of Blockchain Research at CTIC), Arnaud Le Hors (Senior Technical Member of Blockchain at IBM) and Laura Spinaci (CEO at Blockchain & Innovation Mentoring Lab).

Luis Meijueiro concludes that “Any company wishing to adopt the blockchain should first investigate internally, and within its immediate business environment, whether it sees a clear case for working in a decentralised manner. An honest answer will tell you whether implementing a blockchain-based solution will be feasible, or a predictable failure”.

Panel: Misunderstanding of when to use Blockchain. Photo by EBC

A sincere thank you to all of our sponsors; without their support, this event would not be what it is. Their motivation in making the European Blockchain Convention a success is much appreciated!

We would also like to extend our gratitude to all the speakers, for taking the time to prepare the sessions and for travelling to Barcelona to participate.

Each of you are an integral part of the EBC family!

Warm regards,

Victoria Gago, Co-Founder of European Blockchain Convention. Photo by EBC

European Blockchain Convention connects the blockchain ecosystem in Europe