When people think about blockchain technology or international tech hubs, Silicon Valley in the US and tech power players across Asia like Singapore often come to mind first, with the integral part European nations play on the global playing field often understated.
A recent study by Ipsos showed that Europeans were more optimistic about the future of crypto than both Australia and the US. Where China has taken a strict stance with an all-out ban on ICOs, and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) indirectly creating a restrictive atmosphere in the US, the European Union (EU) has gone against the grain by establishing the bloc as a hub for blockchain innovation.
Emulating this positive cultural attitude towards blockchain technology, as a governing body, the EU has taken various measures to ensure that nation states are not left behind, with plans to cultivate blockchain education and skills development.
There is a reason why industry leaders across the globe are deciding to set up shop and incorporate companies in Switzerland’s well known Crypto Valley, as well as in the likes of the UK, Estonia, and Denmark. Regulation is a prominent factor in attracting these companies to Europe as opposed to other parts of the world. Having support from governments, and progressive legislation, play a significant role in helping companies in the blockchain space thrive.
Recognising the capabilities of blockchain, European Commission (EC) Vice President Andrus Ansip named blockchain as one area “where Europe is best positioned to play a leading role”. Ansip is just one of many political leaders vying for Europe to excel in the blockchain evolution. It’s not just all political talk either — Europe is taking action. The Commission has been funding projects long before crypto surfaced in the mainstream media, supporting development in the space for the past five years and committing to increasing support to €340m until 2020. In April, 22 European countries agreed to a joint initiative to work on blockchain regulation and education, as well as exchange expertise both in technical and regulatory aspects.
In spite of the great work being done on a political and governmental level, there are challenges which have inhibited Europe from charging ahead of the pack thus far. The reality is the EU cannot bring about this change without external support. To raise the funds necessary, local governments and the private sector need to invest more in the tech sector to really drive development. To this end, Ipsos found that Europeans are just trailing Australia in crypto awareness followed closely by the US. For Europe to maintain this, it is imperative to promote education in the space and create an attractive environment for companies to start their businesses on the continent.
With an optimal ecosystem with improved fintech infrastructure, modern and reliable regulation, and centres for knowledge and innovation, there is no reason why Europe couldn’t become the global blockchain leader.