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The UK Government and IBM Support and Fund Innovate Finance’s Blockchain Lab

Op-ed - The UK Government and IBM Support and Fund Innovate Finance’s Blockchain Lab

In August Bitcoin Magazinereported that the "Innovate Finance Manifesto: 2020", released by Innovate Finance, an organization focused on promoting U.K. leadership in digital fintech, was praised by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“This government wants the U.K. to be the leading fintech center in the world. That’s why, at the Summer Budget, we appointed a special envoy for this fast growing sector,” said Cameron. “I’m pleased that Innovate Finance’s manifesto has set such ambitious goals, including the creation of 100,000 jobs. This will ensure we are a world leader in the development of financial services technologies.”

The Manifesto 2020 establishes a generic framework for digital fintech innovation without going into details of specific technologies, and doesn’t mention Bitcoin and blockchain-based digital currencies explicitly.

But now Innovate Finance has announced the establishment of a blockchain lab in partnership with the Hartree Centre, the high performance computing and data analytics research facility founded by the U.K. Government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), as a research collaboration in association with IBM.

“We are excited about the prospect of our members openly collaborating to deliver use cases to the wider community,” said Innovate Finance’s CEO Lawrence Wintermeyer. “If we can use the lab to develop open standards for the blockchain in financial services, we will be moving one step closer to accelerating the mass adoption of this breakthrough technology.”

Innovate Finance also has released a video taken at a recent “Blockchain Day” event. In the video, fintech innovators outline the transformative potential of the blockchain technology, and focus on “Bitcoin 2.0” technologies that go beyond bitcoin payments and include “smart contracts” and “trustless” applications where participants can interoperate without necessarily needing to trust each other.

“This is a formidable partnership built on expertise and a hunger to develop innovations that can have a meaningful and sustainable impact on the financial services sector and the U.K. economy,” said David Moss, Advanced Technology Solutions Manager at the Hartree Centre. “The Hartree Centre is very excited about this new initiative and look forward to working closely with Innovate Finance members to learn from the knowledge they bring. We hope to harness the power of our world-class computing systems. Together we will examine how blockchain technology can shape a new and better future for financial services and possibly other sectors, too.”

By participating in the Innovate Finance blockchain lab, scheduled to be up and running in October, digital fintech companies will be able to leverage the power of Hartree’s high-performance computing (HPC) solutions for their blockchain exploration, which use parallel processing to deliver unprecedented computing speeds to solve problems and to provide accurate predictions and data analysis for new applications and technologies.

The involvement of the British government and IBM in the project is especially interesting. The government supports Innovate Finance’s plan to consolidate U.K. leadership in digital fintech and, together with the Bank of England, has made recent moves to support blockchain innovation in Great Britain. IBM is no stranger to blockchain technology, and appears to be interested in integrating its big data analysis, high performance computing and “Watson” artificial intelligence technologies in next-generation blockchain developments.

The Hartree Centre was created in 2012 by the STFC, with a £37.5 million (about $58 million) investment from the U.K. government, to develop, deploy and demonstrate high-performance computing (HPC) solutions. In the Autumn Statement 2014, the U.K. government committed further £113 million ($174 million) to expand the Centre in the next five years.

In June, IBM announced that it will further support the project with a package of technology and onsite expertise worth up to £200 million ($309 million), which brings the total funding to $483 million.

“We’re at the dawn of a new era of cognitive computing, during which advanced data-centric computing models and open innovation approaches will allow technology to greatly augment decision-making capabilities for business and government,” said David Stokes, chief executive for IBM in the U.K. and Ireland. “The expansion of our collaboration with STFC builds upon Hartree’s successful engagement with industry and its record in commercializing technological developments, and provides a world-class environment using Watson and OpenPOWER technologies to extend the boundaries of Big Data and cognitive computing.”