What Australia’s first two federal blockchain pilots will do

The federal government has named the first two organisations to receive blockchain grants of $5.6 million for the minerals and beverage sectors.

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To help organisations to demonstrate the potential for blockchain to reduce regulatory compliance burden for business, the Australian federal government has established the Blockchain Pilot Grants program.

It has now named the first two recipients: UK-headquartered Everledger will get $3 million and focus on applications in the critical minerals sector; Canada-headquartered Convergence.tech will get $2.6 million with a focus on the beverage sector. The grants are funded under the Australian government’s Digital Business package, which was announced in the 2020-21 federal budget.

The objectives of the pilot are to:

  • Reduce compliance costs for businesses.
  • Ensure buyin from regulators.
  • Bolster blockchain literacy and contribute to the overarching objectives of the national roadmap.
  • Develop blockchain solutions for government and showcase to industry the viability of the regulatory efficiencies of blockchain.
  • Support the inclusion of blockchain in broader policy work to increase management capability around digital technologies.

The pilot involving Everledger aims to build supply chain integrity and contribute to the critical minerals national ethical certification scheme and help critical minerals businesses get more of their products to international markets. Everledger will investigate how blockchain technology can be used to create a digital certification for critical minerals throughout the extraction and movement phases. This would help companies in the sector to ensure adherence to compliance regulations and increase the demand for Australian products in global markets, while also simplifying the process and lowering costs.

Established in 2015 in London, the company was founded by Australian Leanne Kemp. Everledger has 70 employees and offices in six countries, including a Brisbane office.

The pilot involving Convergence.tech aims to address the challenges of complying with excise tax regulations throughout spirit production and supply. Convergence.tech will research how to use blockchain technology to help automate key reporting processes under the excise system, a commodity-based tax on goods including beer and spirits. This would help companies in the sector to reduce compliance costs associated with the creation, storage, and transportation of their products.

To be selected for grants, companies had to explain how they would achieve the pilot objectives, to prove they had the capacity, capability, and resources to deliver the pilot; and to show how the funding would benefit the project. The applicants also had to ensure the viability and security of their blockchain solution, including how the blockchain will verify real world-data and prevent the input of fraudulent data.

The pilot aligns with the National Blockchain Roadmap to progress Australia towards a blockchain-empowered future announced in February 2020. The federal government said then that blockchain technology may provide an opportunity to reduce costs and increase efficiencies in the financial services sector, as well as enhance the competitiveness of new market players and support higher rates of consumer switching.

The roadmap also highlighted the need to focus on skills, with Australian universities developing modules and courses which specialise in blockchain. Another focus was to improve blockchain literacy among decision makers.

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