Seven new projects will explore the potentially transformative opportunities offered by Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) in fields such as energy, healthcare, banking and policy-making.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has supported the projects with more than £3.6 million of investment, delivered through the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Digital Economy Theme.
They will look at new uses for digital distributed ledgers, databases which are shared between multiple parties and have the potential to make the systems and services they are applied to more transparent while maintaining high levels of security and privacy.
The best known use of DLT currently is in Bitcoin, a form of digital currency that uses blockchain technology, a distributed ledger formed of unchangeable and digitally-recorded data stored in packages called blocks.
EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: "Distributed Ledger Technology may be synonymous with Bitcoin to many, but as these projects show it has disruptive potential across a wide range of products and services. If it delivers on its radical promise, it could make a significant impact on the economy and society."
A Government Office for Science report, published in 2016, said that technical innovations such as DLT could enable "revolutionary changes" that will "ultimately cause major changes in the way in which the economy and society itself is organised and governed".
The highly multi-disciplinary research projects taking place will involve a wide range of academic and industry partners, and consider the technical, economic, legal and social elements of the technology.
Summaries of the projects:
Blockchain technology for Algorithmic Regulation And Compliance (BARAC), EP/P031730/1
BARAC will look into how DLT can overturn current regulation and compliance models, opening the way for more effective regulation in the services industry.
Led by: Professor Tomaso Aste, UCL
Partners: London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Reading, King's College London, Advanced Technologies Solutions SpA, Aesthetic Integration Ltd, BT, Cyprus Securities & Exchange Commission, Financial Conduct Authority, Lykke, Morrison & Foerster, R3 CEV
Household-Supplier Energy Market (HoSEM), EP/P031838/1
HoSEM will research how DLT can help democratise the UK's energy market by allowing the households that generate energy to directly buy and sell from each other.
Led by: Dr Ruzanna Chitchyan, University of Leicester
Partners: Lancaster University, University of Exeter, EDF Energy
ARCHANGEL - Trusted Archives of Digital Public Records, EP/P03151X/1
ARCHANGEL will work with major archives (such as The National Archives) to safeguard the integrity of their content (e.g. against degradation or tampering), and to develop new business models to help release value in their content.
Led by: Dr John Collomosse, University of Surrey
Partners: Guardtime, Methods Digital Ltd, VoeTek
Co-operative Models for Evidence-based Healthcare Redistribution (CoMEHeRe), EP/P03196X/1
CoMEHeRe aims to transform personal healthcare through the use and management of biometric information recorded by wearable devices. This will allow individuals to securely store and access data which they will be able to share to enable more targeted, personalised patterns of treatment.
Led by: Professor Alan Brown, University of Surrey
Partners: AXA Group, Guardtime
Trusted and Transparent Voting Systems, EP/P031811/1
Trusted and Transparent Voting Systems is concerned with the use of DLT to support trustworthy electronic voting within organisations, managing the voting rights of members such as company shareholders, underpinning the verifiability of electronic voting mechanisms, and exploring the new opportunities for corporate governance and social choice enabled by such technologies.
Led by: Professor Steve Schneider, University of Surrey
Partners: King's College London, Crowdcube Ltd, Electoral Reform Services, Monax Industries
Distributed Ledgers and Decentralised Energy in sub-Saharan Africa, EP/P031854/1
In collaboration with GSMA's Mobile for Development Utilities programme and ElectriCChain, the developers of the SolarCoin Blockchain, this project will design and test a platform for peer-to-peer electricity exchanges in East Africa with the aim of accelerating access to off-grid solar energy distribution.
Led by: Dr Jamie Cross, University of Edinburgh
Partners: Lancaster University, Newcastle University, ElectriCChain, GSM Association (GSMA)
Smart Money: Precision Data Management for Distributed Ledger enabled Central Bank issued Digital Currencies, EP/P0312001/1
Smart Money will mobilise the power of data to significantly improve decisions concerning policy-making for the control of money supply for the public good, including the development of new Fintech services in the UK's Digital Economy.
Led by: Professor Panos Louvieris, Brunel University London
Partners: City, University of London, Bank of England, Office for National Statistics
Notes to Editors:
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.
By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.
We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.
RCUK Digital Economy Theme The Theme supports research to rapidly realise the transformational impact of digital technologies on community life, cultural experiences, future society, and the economy.
We bring together a unique community of researchers and users to study, understand and find solutions to real problems. Relevant researchers are from a diverse range of disciplines including social science, engineering, computer science, the arts and medical research. EPSRC leads the RCUK Digital Economy Theme on behalf of Research Councils UK.