THE SCIENCE OF BLOCKCHAIN: INTERVIEW WITH SCIENCE: DISRUPT’S GEMMA MILNE

2017-09-13

Public Sector, Financial Services, Creative Industry

Gemma Milne, Co-Founder, Science: Disrupt

Science: Disrupt, perhaps as the name suggests, is an organisation created to impact real change in the field of Science, through connecting the key figures needed to make an imprint on the way the industry operates. Citing slow processes, steep barriers to entry, and  poor external and internal communication as problems leaving the Science industry in need of disruption, Science: Disrupt looks to address this. Disruptive is one of a number of buzzwords used to describe Blockchain, so how can Blockchain be used to such an effect in the scientific field? We sat down with Gemma Milne, co-founder at Science: Disrupt to talk about her work, how Blockchain can “disrupt” Science, as well as applications across a range of other industries.

Gemma kicked off by talking about her first encounter with Blockchain technology, and what first piqued her interest about it. She initially heard of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technology when working in advertising, through communication with clients from the finance sector. Speaking of why Blockchain got her attention, Gemma continued “What first made me interested, was this idea of totally changing the way we do things; for example databases, a foundational element of how we communicate, trade and trust one another. I like the idea of technologies that change the state of play”. Asked about her current work surrounding Blockchain, Gemma explained “we cover innovations in Science, something we discussed in terms of how it can affect the way we conduct research, the peer review process, making it more open and accountable as opposed to the shielded system we currently have”.

Digging down to the core of the subject, Gemma spoke about Blockchain’s potential to disrupt traditions across industries. Is the hype justified? Gemma was cautious with the shoehorning of Blockchain solutions – “it’s always a problem when starting with a technology and trying to find a use for it. We should be finding the biggest problems and working out the right technologies to solve them”. That said, Gemma was optimistic about Blockchain’s ability to address said problems across a range of industries, such as in her field, it’s potential to improve peer review improvement. Gemma also reinforced her belief that Blockchain is here to stay, when applied correctly. “if you can pair someone who understands the technology with a specific problem across industries, and they work together, Blockchain will definitely stick”.

Though Gemma thinks Blockchain is here to stay, and she sees its’ potential for real change, there are still challenges to overcome in order for it to achieve the distruptive effect it promises. We asked Gemma what she saw in the future of Blockchain, and what trends she would predict. Starting on the subject of trends, she put the focus of Blockchain in the future squarely around its ability to create trust, either between customers and businesses or in other, non-financial situations. Gemma highlighted the societal push towards ownership and optimisation of resources, Uber and Airbnb as examplars facilitating this change. Referring to the trend, Gemma said “If we’re going to continue with that, we need to find systems to trade and create liquidity in markets – can that be Blockchain?”, showing in her view that if Blockchain can prove its ability to improve processes for these growing “resource optimisation” businesses, then this creates further opportunities for application in the future, in helping build the AirBnB’s and Ubers of other sectors.

Gemma shared her thoughts on future applications of Blockchain, and where she saw the technology making an impact going forward. Citing potential for the NHS to adopt Blockchain to improve patient record applications for Blockchain, Gemma hoped that Blockchain applications will be invested in by the Healthcare industry – but there was also cause for caution in her response. With the finance industry, and in particular banks investing heavily into Blockchain and those with Blockchain experience, the limited supply of expertise in Blockchain inevitably means that some industries with lesser resources will struggle to fully explore their potential. “If you put Blockchain on your LinkedIn profile, you’re snapped up quickly by big banks – if that’s the case the immediate applications will be in that space, rather than in other spaces where it may be needed as much”. Is there a solution to this problem? Gemma proffered that the answer may lie within pharmaceuticals, a field combining healthcare with the level of financial support to compete with the banking world – Blockchain, she suggested could offer drug provenance and efficiency benefits in the pharmaceutical area that should be explored.

Finally, Gemma offered a few concluding thoughts. Gemma was optimistic about its future, but suggested changes be made in the way Blockchain is explained and communicated to those outside of the Blockchain community bubble looking in – “Anytime someone starts talking about Blockchain, the beginning is always an analogy, and a remark about how complicated Blockchain is. We need to start talking about it more as a database technology, and simplify rather than densify. Even quantum computing is now being simplified down in conversation, why not Blockchain too?”.

Catch Gemma as part of the “Beyond Proof of Concept: Towards Scalable Blockchain for the UK’s Public Sector” panel at Blockchain Live, or read more about Science: Disrupt and their work here.

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