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Project Novum: Distributed Ledger Technologies and Structural Change in Financial and Cultural Services

Project Novum: Distributed Ledger Technologies and Structural Change in Financial and Cultural Services


Who are the project stakeholders?

Alan Turing Institute

The Alan Turing Institute (ATI) is the United Kingdom’s national institute for data sciences, founded in 2015. It is a joint venture between the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Oxford, University College London, and the University of Warwick, supported by funding from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The ATI is headquartered in the British Library, London.

Infosys Finacle

Infosys Finacle is a global banking software solution provider powering one sixth of the world’s bank accounts. Infosys Finacle sits within EdgeVerve, the product division of Infosys, a global technology company with over 200,000 employees working across financial services, manufacturing, energy, retail, healthcare, and public services. Infosys has developed its own DLT framework, and is working with its financial services customers and alliance partners on DLT prototypes and pilot projects in remittances, trade finance, regulatory reporting, and capital markets. Participation in this research is led by the Dublin-based Infosys Finacle R&D team.


DACS is a London-based not-for-profit visual artists’ rights management organization representing 90,000 artists worldwide. Founded over 30 years ago, DACS is a flagship organization that campaigns for artists’ rights, collecting and distributing royalties to visual artists and their estates through a number of schemes including payback for secondary uses of original artwork, artist’s resale rights, and copyright licensing.

University of Oxford

Most of the research team, including the principal investigator Vili Lehdonvirta, is composed of academics at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), a multi-disciplinary department at the University of Oxford. The department undertakes research and teaching devoted to understanding life online, with the aim of shaping Internet research, policy, and practice. Founded in 2001, the OII has tracked the Internet’s development and use, aiming to shed light on individual, collective and institutional behaviour online. The department brings together academics from a wide range of disciplines including political science, sociology, geography, economics, philosophy and physics and employs a diverse array of methods and data sources to study digital life.

University of Warwick

The research will be supported by Professor Graham Cormode from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, a research university in Coventry, UK. The department puts inter-disciplinary research at the core of its work, focused on mathematics, statistics and engineering, in particular in the areas of discrete mathematics, data science and image processing. It plays a leading role in various research centres, including the Centre for Discrete Mathematics and its Applications, the Warwick Complexity Complex, the Centre for Scientific Computing, and the Warwick Data Science Institute.

What research methodology will be used?

The approach of the project is based on an approach previously used with success in research led by OII. It combines:

  • Formal interviews with informants working in financial services
  • Informal discussions with informants working in financial services
  • Desktop research on existing industry structure and business models
  • Literature review and ongoing engagement with DLT developer community to accurately incorporate technological possibilities and limitations

Insights from the above sources will then be integrated via intensive multidisciplinary workshops framed around specific drivers.  The workshops will also involve key informants, influencers or decision makers from the target sectors. This qualitatively-led approach, focused on building an understanding of incentive structures, can then be used to produce basic quantitative projections of the DLTs’ potential impacts.

Why research DLT?

DLTs enable new ways of generating, managing, and disseminating real-time transaction data in a distributed fashion, using very different transparency and security models from the current status quo. They can potentially reshape organizations and industries by replacing gatekeepers and custodians with shared ledgers, or by enabling new types of horizontal coordination and collaboration. In many cases a significant structural or organizational change may also be a prerequisite for successful application of DLTs. The purpose of this project is to understand these organizational aspects of DLTs, to unlock the full value of the technical work that private vendors and academic researchers are already conducting.

This project would bring focus to a crucial area that is currently largely neglected in DLT research and applications: organizational and structural issues. Significant research and development resources are currently focused on the technical aspects of DLTs, such as peer-to-peer networking and distributed data integrity. Much of this work occurs in relative isolation and does not (at least in its early developmental stages) consider scalable real-world uses and most importantly the real-world users who will engage with any successful DLT implementation. We aim to complement this existing research by revealing the significant organizational and structural changes that the successful application of DLTs is expected to require or precipitate in firms and industries.

Key Information

Project dates:
June 2017 - May 2018

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