Romanian Blockchain Ecosystem

Photo by Lidia on Unsplash

Report by Carmen, Victor & Tudor Holotescu

Based on an active implication, extensive research and monitoring of the Romanian Blockchain scene since 2017, this work updates the first attempt to map the Romanian Blockchain Ecosystem published in 2018.
Without claiming exhaustiveness, the report offers a fresh perspective of the vibrant, diverse and mature initiatives in the field.
Despite there are not yet any specific national legislation, support and strategy for crypto-assets and Blockchain, Romania has a growing number of experienced companies, innovative startups and projects, active accelerators, many communities and events (section 1), and also numerous educational programs, initiatives and policy proposals (section 2).
During the last year there were registered also a few innovative government projects, some being pioneering in Europe, such as the Blockchain voting reporting tool for the national parliamentary elections, and systems and policies for diplomas and micro-credentials on the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) (sections 1.11, 1.12, 2.6).

1. General Initiatives

1.1. Regulations

In March 2018, in a press release, the National Bank of Romania strengthens its position expressed in March 2015, drawing attention to the high risk of investments in digital currency, discouraging any involvement in them.

The Law 30/2019, in force from January 20, 2019, establishes a taxation of incomes made by individuals from cryptocurrencies if the earnings exceed 600 lei per year.

As there is no legal framework in the EU to provide a definition and regulation on digital currencies, digital foreign exchange services and providers of custody wallets, this has materialized with the adoption of the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Directive, also called 5AMLD — the implementation of additional measures regarding the transparency of financial transactions. The Government of Romania adopted an Emergency Ordinance on July 1, 2020, on amending and supplementing Law №129/2019, which also transposes the 5AMLD into Romanian legislation. Check also the article Romania Is on the Way to Blockchain and Crypto Regulation on Cointelegraph.

On Friday, March 29, 2019, the National Bank of Romania organized, in partnership with the West University of Timișoara, a conference in which there were presentations related to the causal link between Fintech, Blockchain as disruptive technologies and cryptocurrency, market security, and also efficiency of the payment systems.

1.2. Companies and Start-ups

Zitec, Modex, Elrond, Qualitance, Cegeka, Tremend, Restart Energy, Aurachain, BlueDrive, Under Development Office — acquired by Zitec in January 2021, CryptoDATA, Around25, RebelDot, SpaceGiant, Softbinator Technologies, CFT Solid, CertSIGN with the project certME, LEW, Enersec, Blockchain Engineering, Arobs, TailPath, Transylvania High Tech are Romanian companies specialized in Blockchain development.

Modex offers fully integrated data protection solutions and aims to make digital technologies user-friendly for organizations and people. The Modex Blockchain Database (Modex BCDB) platform allows companies to implement their first Blockchain project in just a few days instead of a few months, offering real data integrity, log immutability and data security.

In 2019 and 2020, BCR-InnovX Accelerator of the National Bank of Romania selected two Blockchain projects: Enersec’s collaborative platform for IoT systems protection and Modex’s project for managing banking databases.

Elrond, coordinated by Beniamin Mincu, aims of creating the backbone for a high bandwidth, transparent financial system, and extending universal access to anyone, anywhere. Swapping from ERD on Binance, Elrond’s eGold cryptocurrency debuted in the eToro ecosystem on the 23rd of December 2020, becoming available on the eToroX cryptocurrency exchange.

In August 2021, Elrond announced that the network has become the first carbon negative European Blockchain, opening a new wave of sustainable innovation in line with the European climate policy.

In October 2021 Elrond has acquired Capital Financial Services S.A., a payment processor and registered Electronic Money Institution. Operating under the brand name Twispay, the company is a principal member of Visa and Mastercard and offers payment processing services to more than 300 merchants, including companies such as Blue Air, Romania’s largest airline.

At the beginning of 2018 Restart Energy was launched, being a Blockchain-based energy ecosystem developed in Timisoara and the fastest growing private energy and gas provider in the EU. At the beginning of 2021, the company entered into a joint venture with the Washington, DC based Interlink Capital Strategies to develop 500 million dollars in green energy in Romania and neighboring countries as well as to expand into the US market with an innovative Blockchain electricity trading platform.

Aurachain developed a low-code platform for Blockchain applications. The company is the new technology partner for the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) and the Central Securities Depository, for two innovative solutions to accelerate and optimize the shareholder voting process at exchange listed companies using Blockchain technology, and to facilitate access to the capital market by digitizing investor enrollment (from December 2020).

In July 2020 CryptoDATA launched into Earth’s stratosphere an experimental satellite that it plans to use for testing a new encrypted communication protocol called the Voice Over Blockchain Protocol (VOBP). The project is called GLOBAR and is a new global network that aims to communicate and transfer data between user terminals.

Euroledger, founded by Geomina Richardson, is building a user activation tool for marketplaces, enhancing trust between their users by facilitating transfer of their reputational data from other platforms in a verified way. The start-up is accelerated by the EU Blockstart project.

Instant Factoring, Morfin, Minutizer, Paybilla, Oveit and Symphopay are only a few of a dynamic and impressive list of Fintech companies.

OpenEduChain is the spinoff of Timsoft, specialized in Blockchain projects. RO-Certs is one of the products, being the single Romanian system for digital certificates, developed in 2018 — presented in the education section below.

Techcelerator is an accelerator which supported Blockchain start-ups such as BAAM, Stockberry, OncoChain, MedTech, DotX.

In April 2021, AgTech TM by Agroland, an incubation program for innovative projects in agriculture, started to accelerate TailPath founded by Sebastian Cochinescu, for a traceability use-case.

Also, since 2018, Consensys has offices in Romania, in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca.

Axiologic, CIVITTA, Coinsby, Valoria and Smart Generation offer consultancy in Blockchain.

1.3. Blockchain projects

WebDollar is a cryptocurrency fully native to the World Wide Web, entirely written in JavaScript, built around the concepts of simplicity, lightness and portability. It uses a Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof of Work (NiPoPoW) consensus mechanism, and was developed by a group coordinated by Alexandru Ionut Budisteanu, Forbes 30 under 30 Europe, Times magazine one of the most influential teens.

Swazm is a Blockchain infrastructure project, using decentralized storage and compute technologies to provide a turnkey solution for DApps. Swazm has partnered with Restart Energy to create the RED Platform — a peer-to-peer system which utilizes cutting-edge blockchain and IoT technology in order to empower consumers to acquire and trade renewable energy cheaper, directly from producers.

Code of Talent, founded by Vlad Grigoriu and Sorin Paun, is a decentralized learning platform, integrating short lectures, token incentives, as well as direct interaction between instructors, learners, and employers. As part of the Blockchain structure, companies seeking labor can see the public ledger of skills from all participants and choose those that best fit their needs. Check also the articles at Business Review and Economistas.

Oracol is a mass integration project, having as objectives the adoption of Oracol Xor, the Oracol World Social Network growing and the promotion of mobile payments using Oracol Xor. Its CEO is Adrian Florea.

OncoChain, founded by Madalin Margan, aims to improve the quality of oncological care by creating a framework to facilitate collection of real-world data and provision of value-based care. It was a winner of the Startupper of the Year 2019 and succeeded to attract different fundings.

Persona, developed by Under Development Office, is a Zero knowledge Identity Blockchain solution, aligned with the latest data protection regulations.

aBey — Multi-Layered Programmable Blockchain High Volume Financial Transactions, operated by ABEY Foundation and coordinated by Ciprian Pungila and Viorel Negru, is a a multi-layered, scalable, secure model of a programmable Blockchain approach to digital currency, aimed towards high-volume e-commerce systems.

Ethernity CLOUD, integrating Blockchain with the cloud technology and applying the Proof of eXecution concept, has applications in many domains, especially in research — demo. Its CEO is Iosif Peterfi.

TaskBar is a gig economy project, launched by Tudor Holotescu and accelerated by Hedera Hashgraph.

Blink aims to build a better Internet — to empower content creators and readers alike, using a DLT protocol based on DAG-chain, the founders being Andrei Grigorean and Mihai Ciucuproject description.

After winning a Hedera hackathon with the project “Payper — P2P micro-payments for the Open API Economy”, Alex Males developed Payable Web — digital content, data and web services monetization solutions built on top of an awarded technology that facilitates micropayments with minimal friction.

Openfabric.ai is a decentralized AI platform in which the collaboration between AI innovators, data providers, businesses, and infrastructure providers will facilitate the creation and use of new intelligent algorithms and services; Roadmap: Q1 2019 Initial concept — Q1 2021 Prototype Launch.

Funded by SMART Start-up, a project of West University of Timisoara, Noletter is an application for documents notarization developed by Tudor Birlea on Stellar.

Launched by Miniprix in 2019, The Seva.green application uses Blockchain as a method for secure clothing and footwear donations, offering intelligent post-consumption solution that connects donors, couriers, social assistance institutions and beneficiaries.

An analysis of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) projects appears in the article Romania could be the next Berlin by 2020, written by Bogdan Florin Ceobanu in 2018.

1.4. Mining

In Romania there are 40 nodes of the Bitcoin network, the country being on the 30th position in a top of 100 countries; also, with 30 Ethereum nodes, it is on the 29th position.

1.5. Media and News

Bitcoin Magazine, the oldest and most established source of news, information and expert commentary on Bitcoin, was co-founded by Mihai Alisie and Vitalik Buterin in 2012. It is now operated by BTC Media USA and is ranked the 7th on Blockchain Top 100 in 2020.

Romanian journals/sites specialized in Blockchain/cryptocurrency are Bitcoin Journal (Gazeta Bitcoin), Bitcoin Romania, Running after Bitcoin (Goana dupa Bitcoin), Cryptonews.

Crypto-Friday (Crypto-Vineri) is a series of videos about cryptocurrency and Blockchain, realized by the journalist George Buhnici.

UPGRADE 100, a complex media project coordinated by Dragoș Stanca, has also many events and interviews related to Blockchain, such as the recent interview with Beniamin Mincu about Elrond.

RevistaBiz, Start-up, StartupCafe, Wall Street, Romania Insider publish also many articles about Blockchain.

1.6. Conferences and Events

In February 2017, Alex Tapscott delivered a presentation on Blockchain Revolution at the “Meet Global Thinkers” Conference.

“Blockchain — Disruptive Innovation” was an event organized by the Romanian Chamber of Commerce, in June 2017, while in December 2017 d10e — The Leading Conference on Decentralization took place.

Blockchain Talks was organized in February 2018.

The larger conference was Romania Blockchain Summit, organized in June 2019.

The editions of Crypto Mondays attracted interested participants and discussions around many projects.

Future Banking is an international conference organized in 2019 and 2020, which drew the first Romanian Fintech map, now at the second edition.

All these events took place in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

Three interesting conferences were organized in 2018 and 2019 in Cluj-Napoca, Blockchain for Development Forum: The Future Now, Transylvania Crypto Conference and Mindchain, which explored the interaction between Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Spherik Accelerator and B-Hub for Europe organized the event “The after-hype reality of Blockchain in Romania”, in February 2020, in Cluj-Napoca too, and the online workshop “Blockchain: Public Sector Use Case” in January 28, 2021.

1.7. Hackathons

In October 2017, the first eHealth hackathon was organized in Romania, and the winner was MedNet, an eHealth project based on Blockchain, aiming to protect patients’ personal data.

In 2019, three hackathons were organized by Modex.

In February 2021 the online Blockathon will be organized, focused on engaging bright minds from the Blockchain & startup communities to contribute to the digitalization of processes in the public sector. The hackathon is organized by Cluj Startups & Spherik Accelerator and powered by B-hub for Europe, a project funded by the European Commission, through Horizon2020, under the Startup Europe umbrella.

1.8. Payments

CryptoCoin, LDV Crypto Exchange, Tradesilvania and vTrader are exchange operators, while ZebraPay kiosks can be used for digital currency purchase.

Netopia mobilPay integrated mobile payments using Bitcoin in 2014.

A series of Romanian e-shops accept payments in Bitcoin (http://faturl.com/shopsbtcro).

In the analysis of Consensys “This Global Heatmap Shows Retail Cryptocurrency Adoption” (2019), Bucharest is mentioned:
The largest crypto retail hubs in Europe are centered in London and Amsterdam, with Zurich and Zug propelling Switzerland into contention. The general spread of cryptocurrency adoption in Europe appears even and consistent, with cities like Berlin, Bucharest, and Madrid indicating remarkable growth and development.

1.9. Communities

The Romanian Blockchain Association was launched in March 2018, being coordinated by Armand Doru Domuța, CEO of Restart Energy, with the aims to inform and educate the Romanian public, and to provide the necessary tools to invest safely in a friendly legislative environment. It was the co-organizer of the Romanian Blockchain Summit in June 2019.

Blockchain Romanian Community is another community, organized by BlueDrive.

In February 2018 the Government Blockchain Association (GBA) Bucharest Chapter was created, being coordinated by Nicolae Ghibu.

Legal Blockchain Association was launched by Alexandru Pop, for practitioners in legal and justice system.

There are a lot of local groups of developers and enthusiasts in Blockchain technologies, which organize different events. In 2018, a series of meetups were sponsored by ConsenSys.

It is worth mentioning that the Digital & Distributed Technology Moldova Association was created in January 2018.

1.10. Training

There are companies and organizations that offer courses about Blockchain: NobleProg, Crystal Mind, Life University, Modex which has an Academy with a free MOOC for Blockchain Business Analyst, also Webdollar has an Academy with short video tutorials.

CryptoZZ, founded by Anna Mera, is a project aiming to extend the knowledge about Blockchain and cryptocurrency, by organizing meetings and publishing educational videos.

1.11. EU Funded Projects

“BLOCKS: Blockchain for Entrepreneurs — a non-traditional Industry 4.0 curriculum for Higher Education” is an Erasmus+ project (2019–2021), coordinated by Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, other Romanian partners being Ovidius University of Constanta and Zitec.

“B-hub — Blockchain for Europe” is an H2020 project mobilizing five European ecosystems from Italy, Germany, Romania, France and Lithuania to develop Blockchain use by leveraging European technological excellence and supporting the growth of business models integrating the Blockchain. Spherik Accelerator from Cluj-Napoca is the Romanian partner, and after the first call in the autumn of 2020, 8 Romanian start-ups are being accelerated: AlphaBlock, Balance, Elrond, FilmChain, Moonlet, Morfin, Myneral Labs and Tailpath. A new call will be organized in March 2021.

Spherik Accelerator organized also the training “Blockchain: Applicability & Potential for Transformation in the Romanian Public & Private Sectors”, in November 2020 and January-February 2021.

As a member of the team, Ecaterina Silova had the presentation “The Romanian Blockchain ecosystem — lessons learned so far” at Legal Accelerators, in November 2020.

Coordinated by INATBA, the CHAISE project (2020–2024) is an Erasmus+ project aiming to develop a roadmap for increasing Blockchain training and jobs in the European Union; it will develop a certified training programme for Blockchain and DLTs and the first-ever “Blockchain specialist” occupational profile for Europe. The Romanian National Qualifications Authority is a partner in this project.

“EBSI4RO: Connecting Romania through Blockchain” is a CEF Telecom Blockchain project, which runs between April 2021– March 2023, partners being the Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation — UEFISCDI and Politehnica University of Timișoara. The central scope of the project is to create an extendable and sustainable ecosystem to facilitate and accelerate the awareness, knowledge and adoption of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) by the Romanian citizens, businesses, institutions and administration.
The main objectives of the projects are:

  • to set up an EBSI node, functional and integrated with the EBSI network and operations — this is the second node in Romania, the first one was installed by the National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics — ICI Bucharest at the end of 2020;
  • to deploy the Diplomas’ use-case, by developing applications and services for digital credentials and micro-credentials, integrated with the National Student Enrolment Registry;
  • to support capacity building and blended training activities for universities, institutions and companies, targeting a broader uptake of the EBSI by public and private services, by developing MOOCs on the Unicampus MOOC platform.

Two cities of Romania won projects funded under the Urban Innovative Actions:

OpenDSU continues PrivateSky and is a research project funded by the Romanian Ministry of Research and Innovation (MCI) and the EU (budget around 3M Euro) (2016–2021), aiming at building the next generation of executable choreographies and at implementing powerful innovations regarding secret smart contracts and communication between heterogeneous blockchains. Partners are Axiologic and Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi, the coordinator being Sînică Alboaie.

PharmaLedger and WeldGalaxy are other two projects, and the partner which implements the Blockhain systems in both projects is RomSoft, a software company from Iasi, coordinated by Dorin Cristea, Nicu Popescu and Sînică Alboaie.

1.12. National projects and policies

Launched in July 2020, eConsultare is a Blockchain platform developed by the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests with Modex, through which citizens are consulted and can vote on ministry projects and initiatives.

Romania is the first EU country to use a voting reporting tool that is based on Blockchain technology for national elections. The national parliamentary elections, which were held in December 6, 2020, used Blockchain technology to guarantee the integrity of the electoral process and to strengthen its transparency, in a system implemented by Special Telecommunications Service (STS). The government aimed to ensure tamper-proof and real-time data on voters’ presence. There is still a way to go for the voters to be empowered to record, manage, count and check the votes themselves (without bypassing it to the electoral authorities) by allowing them to hold a copy of the voting record. However, the perspectives of fostering the development of a tech-enabled community consensus and of protecting the democratic values have been stated. See analyzes by Sorin Cristescu (article on Peakd) and Cointelegraph.

Starting with December 2020, the Authority for the Digitization of Romania together with the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca will implement the project “Strategic framework for the adoption and use of innovative technologies in the public administration 2021–2027 — solutions for business efficiency” — project website, with a duration of 30 months and a value of 3.5 million Euro, 85% representing non-reimbursable financing from the European Social Fund, through the Operational Program Administrative Capacity “Competence makes the difference”. Among other results, the project will develop an operational and legislative framework associated with Blockchain technologies. Other ministries with responsibilities in the field of digital transformation and innovation, such as the Ministry Of Development, Public Works And Administration, will support this project. A public consultation on IA in Romania was launched on July 14, 2021.

On October 12, 2021, the Authority for the Digitization of Romania has initiated the public consultation procedure for the Digital Transformation of Public Administration in Romania, worth over 30 million euros; a chapter is related to Blockchain for exploring the technology in order to identify the most effective ways of application at government level, and for piloting the implementation of technology in institutional projects.

A Blockchain reputation mechanism for the EERIS European Research Infrastructures System (2020–2022) is implemented in the project “Increasing the capacity of the RDI system to respond to global challenges. Strengthening the anticipatory capacity for evidence-based public policy making”, coordinated by UEFISCDI: Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding, Romania. The first two authors of this report together with a colleague constitutes the team that has designed and implemented the mechanism, between November 2020-March 2022.

In the autumn of 2020, the Ministry of Finance has launched tenders for studies and implementation of “Automatic Exchange of Information” system extension with components on Blockchain for data security.

A report named “E-Romania — A public policy in the e-government field” was published in July 2020, with reference to Blockchain. The “Government Program 2020–2024" presented in December 2020 stipulates that Blockchain technology will be used for:

  • securing and transparency of information regarding companies
  • supporting Blockchain projects for the digitalization of the country
  • encouraging companies to adopt this technology
  • development of digital skills related to Blockchain.

1.13. Activities at European Level

On May 29, 2018, Romania signed the membership of the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP), created on 10th of April 2018.

Since then, the responsibility of representing Romania inside the council has been passed from one ministry/authority to another; thus, till the beginning of 2021, it was no visibility of Romania’s activity in this partnership despite that EBSI is the most important project, and the Romanian companies and research institutions could have been implied in its implementation.
In the first months of 2020, the representative was the president of the Authority for the Digitalization of Romania. From September 2020 till July 2021, this attribution was held by the National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics — ICI Bucharest, following a government decision (article in the Official Monitor), the representative being appointed Dr.Carmen Elena Cirnu.

Since the beginning of July 2021, the List of EBP representatives states that Monica Chiffa, Head of Digital Single Market Office at Authority for the Digitalization of Romania, is the representative.

Concerning the EU Blockchain Observatory Forum, from 2018 to 2020, Irina Albita (FilmChain, Co-founder) and Vlad Zamfir (Ethereum, Researcher and Blockchain Architect) were members of the Use Cases and Transition Scenarios Working Group (30 members).

Starting with January 2021, among the 90 members of the renewed EU Blockchain Observatory Forum Expert Panel, there are three prestigious Romanian Experts activating abroad: Anca Bogdana Rusu, Dr.Ingrid Vasiliu-Feltes and Irina Albita.

Again, nobody from the Romanian companies/organizations/institutions was selected in the panel.

1.14. Influencers

The report presents the work of over 50 innovators and drivers in this emerging technology, with their initiatives and LikedIn profiles.

Special mentions deserve:

Mihai Alisie is Ethereum co-founder, Bitcoin Magazine creator and Akasha founder.

Dr.Mihaela Ulieru is the President of IMPACT Institute for the Digital Economy, Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University, Global Agenda Council Advisor and Consultant at World Economic Forum. She contributed to Blockchain inclusion in WEF Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016.

Sorin Cristescu is Blockchain Competence Centre Leader at European Commission (DIGIT) in Luxembourg, contributing to the initial version of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI).

Dr.Iulian Nita is a Blockchain solution architect for the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI).

2. Educational initiatives and projects

A series of initiatives and projects have been initiated and implemented during the last 4 years by different researchers, institutions and stakeholders, in order:

  • to improve the awareness of scholars about the potential of Blockchain in education,
  • to improve knowledge about the decentralized applications programming,
  • to pilot and introduce Blockchain applications in the Romanian education system and policies.

The Romanian Blockchain Ecosystem is enlarged with these innovative educational initiatives, in the categories presented below.

2.1. Academic Courses and Programs

During the academic year 2017–2018, the first academic course related to Blockchain programming started at Faculty of Engineering of “Ioan Slavici” University of Timișoara, being designed and facilitated by Professor Carmen Holotescu, Dean and Director of the Center for Open Education and Blockchain, the course having also invited lecturers. The students in the last Bachelor year learn about the potential of Blockchain, European priorities and projects, and how to develop decentralized applications on Ethereum, Hyperledger, Hedera and EBSI.

Beginning with 2020, the course “Blockchain: Foundations and Applications” is taught by Dr.Emanuel Onica and Dr.Andrei Arusoaie at Faculty of Computer Science, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi.

Starting with 2020 too, a similar course named “Blockchain: Smart Contracts” is taught by Dr.Florin Craciun at Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science of Babes-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca.

Starting with the academic year 2020–2021, Politehnica University of Bucharest offers modules about Blockchain in the Master course “Information security in E-systems”, in partnership with Modex, and also the Master course “Blockchain and Big Data in Medical Applications”. The university and Modex have also joint research projects, such as the design of a blockchain system for storing digital diplomas, presented in a IEEE article (Alexandra Cernian et al., 2021).

In 2020 too, a Laboratory of Blockchain was opened by Modex at Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies.

A number of universities have modules about technological and financial aspects of Blockchain and digital currencies, which are integrated in the curricula of courses at Undergraduate or Master levels.

Also Bachelor, Master and PhD theses have Blockchain as topic in many universities.

Special research groups focusing on Blockchain are:

Launched in November 2020, with a duration of three months and running online, “Entrepreneurship in Blockchain” is the first postgraduate program in this field in the country, being organized by the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics from the West University of Timișoara, which has a research group in Blockchain, coordinated by Professor Viorel Negru and Lecturer Ciprian Pungilă. The program tutors are members of the university (Ciprian Pungilă and Alexandru Roja), but also experts in finance (Leonardo Badea, Deputy Governor National Bank of Romania) and entrepreneurship (Mihai Alisie — Ethereum co-founder, Bitcoin Magazine creator, Akasha founder, and Armand Doru Domuța — CEO Restart Energy), and academics from other universities (Professor Carmen Holotescu — “Ioan Slavici” University of Timișoara). Webinar, article and FB notes presenting the program.

The National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics — ICI Bucharest has an European Center for Excellence in Blockchain. Also, starting with the summer of 2020, through the Executive Blockchain Laboratory, ICI offers an online course of 8 weeks entitled “Blockchain Technology: Application and Innovation of Transformational Business”, in collaboration with Old Dominion University (USA), Modex (Romania/UK), Tailpath (Romania/USA), Action4Value (Switzerland/Germany) and the International Research Institute for Cryptoeconomics of WU Wien (Austria).

2.2. Research

Three Romanian universities are members of the Bloxberg Trusted Research Infrastructure, running validator nodes: West University of Timisoara, Carol I National Defense University and Ioan Slavici University of Timisoara.

Hundreds of research papers written by Romanian authors could be found searching the terms Romania intitle:blockchain OR intitle:bitcoin OR intitle:decentralized on Google Scholar.

At the moment of writing the report, middle of January 2021, Web of Science indexes 9583 articles on Blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology, half of which are written by authors from China (23.8%), USA (20.4%) and the UK (7.5%).

The most quoted article — with 953 ISI citations and 2463 on Google Scholar — comes from the USA, from North Carolina State University, written by researchers of Greek origin:

Konstantinos Christidis, Michael Devetsikiotis. 2016. Blockchains and Smart Contracts for the Internet of Things. IEEE ACCESS.

Researchers in Romania wrote 93 articles (0.97%), the country being on the 31st place out of 72 countries that have at least one indexed article.

With 145 ISI citations and 282 on Google Scholars, the most cited article coming from Romania is written by members of the Distributed Systems Research Laboratory, from the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, coordinated by Prof. Ioan Salomie:

Claudia Pop, Tudor Cioara, Marcel Antal, Ionut Anghel, Ioan Salomie, Massimo Bertoncini. 2018. Blockchain based decentralized management of demand response programs in smart energy grids. Sensors.

Also worth mentioning is a recent article by this group:

Claudia Daniela Antal (Pop), Tudor Cioara, Marcel Antal, Ionut Anghel. 2020. Blockchain platform for COVID-19 vaccine supply management. arXiv.

However, narrowing the search to articles related to Blockchain applications in education, Web of Science indexes 243 articles, 9 being from Romania, which thus appears on the 7th place of the 53 countries with such publications.

Referring to the EU funded research projects with partners from Romania, these are revealed by the search of the terms Romania Blockchain on the CORDIS EU research results site and Horizon Dashboard.

2.3. Educational Conferences and Workshops

In March 2018, the workshop “Open Education Week” organized by the eLearning Center of Politehnica University of Timisoara included the presentation Blockchain and Open Education delivered by Carmen Holotescu.

Since 2018, the workshop “Open Education”, co-located with the International Conference “eLearning and Software for Education”, Bucharest, has Blockchain in Education as one of the topics.

In November 2019 the Workshop Blockchain in Business was organized by West University of Timisoara,one of the speakers being Mihai Alisie.

The event Why learn Blockchain? took place in November at Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, organized together with Modex and INACO.

2.4. Educational Blockchain projects

RO-Certs, a project of OpenEduChain, implemented by the report’s authors, is a system for issuing certificates on Blockchain, functional since the spring of 2018 and the single of this type in Romania. There were issued hundreds of digital certificates for participants in different university courses, trainings and workshops.

The first digital certificates were registered for the students of “Ioan Slavici” University of Timisoara, who graduated in 2018 the first Romanian academic course of Blockchain programming.

Using RO-Certs, in the autumn of 2020, there were issued 300 digital certificates for all the students in the schools of Bucharest who obtained the maximum grade at the National Evaluation and Baccalaureate Exams, in a project of INACO — Initiative for Competitiveness.

2.5. Other educational initiatives

In 2019, Politehnica University of Timișoara and Ioan Slavici University of Timisoara set up two nodes on the Steem Blockchain and piloted a certification system, together with universities in Malta and France, in a pro-bono project coordinated by Sorin Cristescu from EC Blockchain Competence Centre in Luxembourg.

In 2020, INACO — Initiative for Competitiveness published the third edition of the Guidance of the jobs of the future, under the coordination of Andreea Paul, the organization’s founder. Written by Carmen Holotescu, a chapter is related to Blockchain. Between 2018–2020, INACO organized f2f and online trainings about the future jobs and emerging technologies, in which over 15,000 pupils took part, becoming familiar with Blockchain too.

In the spring of 2021, thousands of teachers will participate in a nanoMOOC about Blockchain in Education and Research, developed and facilitated by Carmen Holotescu, as an activity of the national project CRED — Relevant Curriculum and Open Education for All, partners of which are the Ministry of Education and the Unit of Research in Education.

2.6. Policy Proposals

In December 2020, the proposals for a Blockchain system for digital certificates / diplomas / micro-credentials and a Blockchain monitoring system for public funding were included in the National Strategy for the Digitalization of Education of the Ministry of Education.

Thus, Romania is (one of) the first EU countries having digital certification in the educational strategy, and more than that diplomas and micro-credentials will be issued on EBSI, in the CEF Telecom project “Connecting Romania though Blockchain” (2021–2023), these representing the alignment to the EBSI Diplomas use-case and European Micro-credentials strategy.

For a broader view, you are kindly invited to consult also two recent European reports on the state of Blockchain in EU countries; in both of them only a small number of Romanian initiatives were depicted:

Notes:

This report’s authors are Carmen Holotescu, Victor Holotescu and Tudor Holotescu.

The first version was published in:
Carmen Holotescu, Victor Holotescu, Tudor Holotescu. (July, 2018). Understanding Blockchain Technology and how to get involved. Research Report. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.25185.33126/1.

Comments and sugestions for improvements are welcome — please comment below or contact the authors.