Blockchain technology is now a mainstay in R&D departments across the world. However, its outsider status has meant that geographies not traditionally considered major tech hubs are increasingly positioning themselves as the home for blockchain projects.
The likes of London, Berlin, and Amsterdam are all up there, but there are plenty you may not have thought of more staking a claim. We took a look at some of those countries making waves.
Late last year, seven EU member nations came together to commit to the promotion of blockchain technology. France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal signed a joint declaration to promote blockchain in southern Europe in a bid to “transform” their economies. The declaration also pledges to make the region a leader in the sector through collaboration and shared research.
The ‘Mediterranean seven’ called on Brussels to help promote blockchain technology, while many governments have declared an interest in using it to offer services to citizens. The group say that they will use distributed ledger technology to transform services including “education, transport, mobility, shipping, Land Registry, customs, company registry and healthcare.”
The EU as an institution has shown interest in blockchain technology, but has so far been reluctant to issue sweeping regulation. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Malta can benefit from a commitment to developing blockchain. If they succeed, the EU may need to re-examine its approach.
Romania has slowly but surely put itself on the European tech map, with a number of startups based in the country thriving. The Financial Times puts its success down to its “science-savvy workforce, a sizeable and growing domestic market, and EU membership” making it a promising European destination. Bucharest, in particular, has been catapulted into the spotlight as an up-and-coming blockchain superpower thanks to it having one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies, a population of 20 million and plenty of young graduates. Romanian startups raised €11.3 million in 2016, with exits of €72 million.
Romania also enjoys a strong reputation for developers, with many businesses outsourcing their work to the country. Digital MOB, a Bucharest-based group of technologists, have designed multiple decentralised platforms, including Tokit and Alethio. Digital MOB designed the former end-to-end, which saw millions of dollars exchanged upon its launch. If Romania’s blockchain companies can continue to have as much success as its startups in other areas, it could well be a significant force going forward.
As part of northern Europe, Estonia is surrounded by technologically forward-thinking nations. On its own, though, Estonia has one of the most exciting and lively technology communities in the world. The country has been a pioneer in bringing government up to speed with technology, named the most advanced digital society in the world by Wired. The likes of Skype, Transferwise, Pipedrive and Taxify were all founded in Estonia. It intelligently caters for everything from tax and voting to residency on its online portal, offering a ‘Startup Visa’ that grants honorary access to foreign startup founders.
The country’s attractiveness as a blockchain hub is largely down to government buy-in. In 2016, the Estonian government was looking for a new way to secure health records for its citizens and turned to blockchain technology for its data integrity. Such commitment to new technology and enthusiastic adoption of blockchain is rare on a governmental level. Estonia will be, without a doubt, a country to watch as the technology progresses.
Despite a population of just 35,000, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar has positioned itself as a leader in developing blockchain. As is often the case, smaller nations can be more agile than their larger, more bureaucratic counterparts. The forward-looking government is the reason that the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), the country’s own digital asset exchange and token sale platform, is the first in the world to be officially recognised by its governing bodies.
The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) has granted the exchange a licence as a provider of distributed ledger technology, making the Gibraltar Stock Exchange (GSX) the first stock exchange to own a national, regulated exchange for cryptocurrencies and digital assets. The platform is subject to fairly stringent regulatory safeguards and risk-based controls, but may prove to be a model for the sustainable and safe deployment of blockchain on a national scale.
The CEO of the GBX, Nick Cowan, hopes the country can position itself as a “lodestar for the global cryptocurrency space” and expects blockchain companies to flourish in Gibraltar under its jurisdiction. “Crucially, here in Gibraltar,” he says, “there has been a realisation that the pursuit of innovation should never come at the expense of sustainability and long-term development.”
Is there anywhere we’ve missed? Where do you think blockchain projects should be looking to base their operations? Let us know in the comments.