Blockchain in UK, mind-map 3
Blockchain in UK, mind-map 3

The Big Innovation Centre, DAG Global and Deep Knowledge Analytics have released a 900+ page monster report called ‘Blockchain in UK’ (sic). This claims to be the ‘blockchain industry systemised for the first time’.

It boasts the inclusion of some 225 companies, 180 investors, 30 tech hubs and 10 incubators along with 100 faces of the UK blockchain industry.

There may be some value in it. Where it is, is bizarrely hard to discern.

The analysis by Enterprise Times suggests this is a report worth avoiding – unless you are desperate or have nothing better to do. Why? We will offer a selection of aspects for consideration.

The so-called mind-maps

The report starts with three colourful so-called mind-maps (which do not much resemble what most consider a mind-map). Two are fancy ways to name a lot of companies, most especially the organisations responsible for the report (proclaimed in the bottom corners).

But it is the third ‘chart’ (for that is what it is) where the mind begins to boggle. In the ‘blockchain technologies’ quadrant it lists immutability and transparency as two of the six blockchain technologies.

Immutability and transparency are qualities of good blockchain implementations. They are not technologies.

Similarly, it is stretching the imagination to argue that private blockchains and public blockchains are technologies. They are implementations with specific characteristics or style, not technologies.

Within the ‘practical applications’ quadrant, there is no mention of trade finance or supply chain (about which more later). Yet this quadrant includes ‘diversity’ as an application (we guess this is fair given that diversity can cover almost anything, including the kitchen sink).

The third quadrant has as its name ‘New Asset Class’. With the exception, possibly, of tokenisation, all the others (liquidity, interoperability, derivatives, exchanges and custodians) have existed for decades if not centuries.

This is not a good start. No matter. Time to dig deeper.

Blockchain in UK self-importance

Before the Executive Summary there is a charming page of photos entitled ’40 Influencers / Blockchain in UK’. Gliding over the infelicitous English of this title there are more quadrants.

The first of these assembles a motley crew of politicians, led by Jeremy Wright (the erstwhile Solicitor General who so ably argued the Government’s losing case in the Supreme Court – that the Government did not need Parliamentary approval to exercise Article 50). Why the other politicians are present is not explained.

The three other quadrants are ‘Academia’, ‘Business’ and ‘Think Tanks and Hubs’. Prima facie this seems more reasonable.

Except that there is no mention (either here or in anywhere else in the report) of, for example, Nir Vulkan and the Said Business School at Oxford University. So what, you may argue?

Only this. The Said Business School runs the Oxford Blockchain Strategy Programme. The latest course started … yesterday (18th July).

Confidence in the completeness of this monster report wanes, akin to the evaporation of an ice-cube under the sun.

The Blockchain in UK Executive Summary, that isn’t

The Executive Summary starts with this unpithy sentence: “‘Blockchain’ software is the world’s leader in a broader class of systems also known as distributed ledger technology (Blockchain), which can be defined as systems which enable ledgers (records of activity) to be cryptographically distributed across a diffuse network of nodes (e.g. personal computers or servers), cutting out the need for a central ledger keeper and effectively delegating that task to the users of the ledger.

Enterprise Times does not know what to make of this:

  • one impression is this resembles ‘blockchain means blockchain’, which is hardly useful
  • another raises the question of tautology, whether blockchain software can be a world leader in a broader class of systems known as distributed ledger technology.

For the blockchain cognoscenti this opening sentence means almost nothing. For those who don’t know much about blockchain it reveals almost nothing, except confusion. It is also a convincing switch-off. This is not a good start to the main body of the report.

Trade finance and supply chain

Trade finance and supply chain are two areas which can overlap. Their absence reveals two gigantic holes in the report’s subject matter coverage. Yet the relevance and developments of blockchain for both trade finance and supply chains are great (see below).

In the report trade finance is almost mentioned, ever so briefly, in three companies, one journalist and a conference. In each of these trade finance as a topic has no explanation nor any examination as an opportunity. This is a blatant omission.

Even stranger is the absence of detailed consideration of blockchain and supply chain, an area where Enterprise Times has found multiple instances (again see below). Supply chains, with or without blockchain, can or will affect the UK.

Instead, blockchain and supply chain is consigned to, and lost in, the IoT bucket. This is both weird and an inadequate treatment of a subject which may have profound implications for the UK’s economy from April next year or January 2021. As with trade finance there is no dissection, or illustration, of how blockchain can provide opportunities as well as real world supply chain benefits. Words fail.

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

So what is the point of this report? Enterprise Times is uncertain. Long, cumbersome and like an occasionally consulted quotations dictionary, it may be useful for reference once in a blue moon (assuming you want to waste almost 90MBs of storage).

Much of the report seems to involve people, rather than discussions of blockchain problems, issues, technologies or real-life solutions. It almost feels like an advertising hoarding for those listed – though the criteria for why they appear is never wholly explained. Those politicians are just the most obvious example, not least through the involvement of the so-called All Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain (which does not list its members, which makes it impossible to tell if it is all party). Again this does not encourage confidence.

Enterprise Times is, overall, unimpressed.

900+ pages of verbiage in Blockchain in UK adds up to little. Perhaps reflecting its far smaller economy, the Government of Cyprus chose to publicise something similar on blockchain (from Open Access Government). It says as little, but manages this in 24 pages with far better design and delivery. It is way more accessible.

As the Enterprise Times title says at the top, this Blockchain in UK report is ‘probably worth a miss’.

Selected  Enterprise Times discussions of blockchain for trade finance and supply chain:

Batavia: yet another trade finance blockchain platform…(duh)

Tradeshift Pay’s cloud platform for supply chain payments and finance

Yet another trade finance/blockchain initiative!

TradeIX and R3 pilot Marco Polo for trade finance

IBM plunges into food supply chain blockchains

Blockchain and supply chain market to grow at 87%

Could blockchains up-end today’s supply chain models

Blockchain to help Maersk track supply chain

Accenture and Thales demonstrate blockchain for Aerospace and Defence


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