IRELAND HAS THE potential to be a “centre of excellence” in blockchain despite low take-up of the technology among many firms in the country.
A new initiative, Blockchain Ireland, has been set up by the IDA-led Irish Blockchain Expert Group (IBEG) to promote the industry here and connect those working in the sector.
IBEG also works with Enterprise Ireland and has received input from the Department of Finance.
At its core, the new platform aims to be a source of information on blockchain development in the country to overcome what has been a mixed bag of information to date, Enterprise Ireland’s senior advisor for fintech, Eoin Fitzgerald, said.
“At the moment if you were to try to find information on blockchain in Ireland, from companies or regulatory announcements, that information could come from anywhere,” he told Fora.
The platform will promote local startups but it is also hoped that it will help attract international firms that are looking to come to Ireland.
There are already a number of foreign outfits working on blockchain here, including payments company Circle and big-four firm Deloitte, which based its EMEA blockchain lab in Dublin.
Blockchain refers to the decentralised technology that records and tracks all transactions on a ledger that can be traced and verified. The tech has garnered a lot of attention in the finance sector for its potential applications in sending and receiving secure payments.
Most recently in May, US blockchain development company ConsenSys, a significant player in the space globally, announced it was opening a Dublin office.
“That only points to the opportunity here,” Fitzgerald said.
The initiative also points to Ireland’s low corporation tax and generous R&D tax credits as further reasons for blockchain companies to operate in Ireland.
On the ground there are native companies like AidTech, which is using the technology to track aid donations to NGOs. However despite this activity, blockchain adoption is still relatively low in Ireland.
A survey by NUIG in May found few companies were aware of the technology or were actively using it. The report urged more top-level managers to consider the possible applications.
“I don’t think it’s a negative reflection to say things are at an early stage or that adoption rates are low,” Fitzgerald said.
“That’s very much reflective of where the technology is at. There are still challenges around scaling blockchain solutions. You can’t go out tomorrow and bring in a payment solution on blockchain because that can’t be scaled yet.”
The platform and the IBEG group will help improve communication and interaction among Ireland’s blockchain sector, Fitzgerald added, such as companies sharing their experience with development or dealing with regulators.
“There’s a lot we know and a lot we don’t know – and when we don’t know things, we engage with the market or the wider expertise,” he said.