Blockchain is still unexplored territory for many small and medium-sized businesses. SMEs that would like to use this data technology will now be able to try it out together with a consortium of knowledge centres in the reliable environment of Blockchain Living Labs.
SMEs often lack the manpower, knowledge, time or resources to use blockchain. Or they are reluctant to share 'sensitive' data about their business operations in a digital network.
Providing safe access to Blockchain for SMEs
In order to give SMEs easier access to blockchain, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Delft University of Technology, TNO and BlockLab have started a subsidized project of Blockchain Living Labs at four locations in the Netherlands. The focus is on applications in logistics and distribution, which have added value for trade and production companies.
In the Blockchain Living Labs, the knowledge centres use their independent expertise to assist the participating companies. This consortium brings various companies, large and small, together in pilot projects of the Living Labs. It is also possible for their suppliers, customers or financial partners to join the Labs. After all, cooperation is necessary for the successful deployment of blockchain.
Blockchain ensures that the data in the system cannot easily be modified and is therefore reliable. This provides transparency for SMEs. ‘Thanks to blockchain, companies are less reluctant to share data. As a result, more data is available, which makes the production of goods, supplies, deliveries and payments predictable. Moreover, less paperwork is required, which leads to savings in time as well as money', says Michiel Steeman, professor of Supply Chain Finance at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences. The consortium hopes that blockchain will persuade companies to share data with each other, so that algorithms, dashboards and other data systems can be linked within a secure network.
Circular use of raw materials
Another advantage of using blockchain is that companies can be more certain about the origin of raw materials. 'Think of material passports. Especially for companies engaged in circular business, this information is important for their customers', says Steeman.
The Blockchain Living Labs will be installed at the training warehouse of the evofenedex entrepreneurs' association in Zoetermeer and at the warehouse of STC mbo School of Logistics and Transport in the port of Rotterdam. A total of four centres will be established in due course. These centres already have the preconditional physical and virtual infrastructure in place, so that various blockchain applications can be tested immediately. It offers students, researchers, companies and suppliers the opportunity to experiment together with blockchain. The experiments will last four years.
This research project is part of the Sustainable Living Labs research programme, which is (co)financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the National Agency for Practical Research (SIA) and the Top Sector Logistics.
SMEs that want to participate in the Blockchain Living Labs or have any questions about this programme, can contact Victor van der Hulst, programme manager of the labs on behalf of the consortium. His contact details are:
Victor van der Hulst
Blockchain Programme manager
Strategic Entrepreneurship Research Centre Business, Media and Law
+31 6 229 86 876