The European Commission has today announced it is launching a study group to investigate potential use cases for blockchain technology across the bloc.

The Commission, which acts as the European Union’s executive, announced the #Blockchain4EU project would run through to February 2018, under the directorship of the Joint Research Centre and the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

The Joint Research Centre will draw on expertise from technical, academic and business sectors, including at both a national and supranational level.

The involvement of the Directorate-Generale will drive the commercial agenda of the research project, investigating the implications for business and the wider EU internal market.

The project will aim to research particular applications for the emerging technology, while engaging stakeholders in discussions about how the EU might make use of blockchain technology and the resulting process gains in future.

It follows from a similar announcement in the last couple of months that saw the EU commit €500,000 to broader pilot projects, designed to increase technical understanding of distributed ledger technology and its potential implications for governance and commerce.

When the project was initially announced, MEP Jakob von Weizsäcker stressed the importance of the Commission increasing its support for blockchain projects and research.

“The Commission is already supporting DLT-enabled projects (DECODE, D-Cent, MyHealth MyData). Support activities are going to increase in the coming months (e.g. Decentralised Data Management). A study will be launched to investigate how DLT can help in reshaping public services and preparing for EU specific DLT actions to address relevant EU challenges.”

The news will be welcomed by those in public administration across the EU, as well as further afield, with countries around the world investigating their own applications for the blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

The tech behind cryptocurrencies like blockchain and ethereum, DLT also has a huge range of potential non-financial applications, which are to become the focus of the Commission’s research and development efforts over the coming months.

The study will aim to explore the advantages and drawbacks of this technology for the future, with a particular focus on implications for small and medium sized businesses.