During the last few months, our Executive Chair and Co-Founder, Nish Kotecha, has held a series of very interesting and useful meetings with influential politicians in the UK Parliament with an interest in and influence on UK technology policy.
• Lord Iain McNicol is the Labour Life Peer for West Kilbride. He is the Deputy-Speaker in the Lords and Vice Chair, Blockchain, FinTech and Fair Business Banking APPGs and Treasurer, Crypto & Digital Assets APPG. Lord McNicol spoke at Gitex Global – the largest tech event in the world – in October 2023.
• Tan Dhesi MP is the Labour MP for Slough and the Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury). He is an expert in construction industry supply chain having been a director of a construction firm for a number of years before entering Parliament.
• Catherine West MP is the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and of Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) – with specific responsibility for the Far East, including China. So Catherine was particularly interested in being briefed by Nish on China’s National Blockchain Academy.
• Chi Onwurah MP is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and the role of Shadow Minister (Science, Research and Innovation) and has raised blockchain technology a number of times on the floor of the House of Commons.
• Chris Evans MP is the Labour MP for Islwyn and the Shadow Defence Procurement Minister.
• Rt Hon Kevan Jones MP is the Labour MP for Durham North and was the Vice Chair of the now defunct Blockchain All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).
Amongst the key discussion points raised and debated in each UK Parliamentarian briefing meeting were:
• The World Economic Forum White Paper, Blockchain for Scaling Climate Action, published in April 2023: “Blockchain is a powerful tool that can provide breadth and depth to climate mitigation and adaptation efforts by democratising ownership, improving transparency and integrity, and enabling real-time visibility into emissions reduction and sequestration efforts”.
• It was agreed blockchain technology is likely to be a key part of trusted global trade network ecosystem going forward as it improves traceability and efficiency (including CO2 emissions) whilst at the same time bears down on fraud.
• There was a consensus around improving the UK’s global trading system to confirm and validate the UK’s status as a trusted trading partner.
• It was accepted that compliance must be automated - that is no longer can an emailed Excel spreadsheet meet the growing demands of the regulators while processing the volume throughput that is and will be required.
• The EU Digital Product Passport, to be launched in 2026, will create a digital environment which would enable data-exchange mechanisms and transparency throughout our supply chains to address political and environmental challenges
• Despite having a vibrant tech hub in the UK the UK is currently behind the curve in terms of blockchain regulations to get ahead of EU and G7 (via the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)) regulations requiring Digital Product Passports.
• In Spain, the Alastria Consortium, launched in 2017, is described as the “first regulated Blockchain ecosystem”.
• China’s National Blockchain Research Centre - targeting training 500,000 professionals in blockchain technology - launched in May 2023, in Beijing, is a game changer: It follows President Xi’s speech in 2019, where he stated: “We must take the blockchain as an important breakthrough for independent innovation of core technologies." It is anticipated China, in the coming months, will launch a kitemark to identify products whose data can be verified in the Blockchain.
• There are also industry specific networks e.g. Energy Web Foundation. Energy Web states on its website: “Energy Web technology is powering decarbonisation solutions in dozens of countries.”
Opportunities for the UK
• The scenario of a successful creation of a UK Digital Product Passport ecosystem – including legislation and regulation, would put the UK ahead of the EU and the rest of the EU and make it a pre-eminent global trading hub in the 21st century.
• Rt Hon Kevan Jones MP told us: “I am excited about how Blockchain for business applications, can help UK plc move to net zero as quickly as possible.”
• “I also think if we get any legislation and regulation right, so Blockchain is adopted across the economy, it could help reduce costs and wastage and carbon.”
• “Jobs in Blockchain and tech generally, are high skill, high pay jobs too.”
• Also it was noted that blockchain, in underpinning web3 will enable more effective monitoring and regulation of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Nish was encouraged by the consensus amongst them that blockchain for enterprise and increased digitalisation of supply chains can help accelerate industries’ journey to net zero.
There also was a willingness and a determination to get the regulations around digital product passports right – working with the UK’s international friends and partners.
There was also a willingness and a determination to ensure the UK becomes a tech – and specifically a blockchain – powerhouse to create and sustain highly skilled and highly paid tech jobs in the UK.
Lots more work to do but this is a good foundation to build on.