Report by Carmen, Victor & Tudor Holotescu

Published in January 2022, last update on June 20, 2022

Based on an active implication, extensive research and monitoring of the Romanian Blockchain scene since 2017, this work is a continually updated report of the first attempt to map the Romanian Blockchain Ecosystem published in 2018, followed by the report published on Medium in January 2021.

The new report is published under the under the auspices of the project “EBSI4RO: Connecting Romania through Blockchain“, the most important Blockchain educational initiative of the moment in Romania, the first two authors being part of the implementation team.

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 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 two years there were registered a few innovative government projects, including the developing of a Blockchain strategy, also some pioneering projects in Europe, such as the Blockchain voting reporting tool for the national parliamentary elections in 2020, and a national system and policies for verifiable diplomas and micro-credentials on the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) (sections 1.12, 1.13, 2.6).

1.General Initiatives
1.1.Regulations
1.2. Companii și Start-up-uri
1.3. Projects
1.4. NFT initiatives
1.5. Mining
1.6. Media and News
1.7. Conferences and Events
1.8. Hackathons
1.9. Payments
1.10. Communities
1.11. Training
1.12. EU Funded Projects
1.13. National projects and policies
1.14. Activities at European Level
1.15. Influencers

Conclusions and proposals
Notes
2. Educational initiatives and projects
2.1. Academic Courses and Programs
2.2. Research
2.3. Educational Conferences and Workshops
2.4. Educational Blockchain projects
2.5. Other educational initiatives
2.6. Policy Proposals

1. General Initiatives

1.1. Regulations

În martie 2018, într-un comunicat de presa, the al Băncii Naţionale a României strengthens its position expressed in March 2015, drawing attention to the high risk of investments in digital currency, discouraging any involvement in them.

The Legea 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, privind modificarea și completarea Law 129/2019, which also transposes the 5AMLD into Romanian legislation. On this topic, check also the article Romania Is on the Way to Blockchain and Crypto Regulation pe Cointelegraph.

Vineri, 29 martie 2019, National Bank of Romania organizat, în parteneriat cu Universitatea de Vest din Timisoara, a conferinta 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.

The chapter “The Virtual Currency Regulation Review: Romania” published in September 2021 by Tudor Velea si Alexandru Stanescu in the book “The Virtual Currency Regulation Review” – 4th edition, offers a broad and critical review of this topic, providing clarity on potential operational and legal risks in the absence of guidance from relevant national authorities.

1.2. Companies and Start-ups

Zitec, Modex, Elrond, Qualitance, Cegeka, Tremend, Restart Energy, Aurachain, BlueDrive, Sub Biroul de Dezvoltare – acquired by Zitec în ianuarie 2021, CryptoDATA, Around25, RebelDot, SpaceGiant, Softbinator Technologies, CFT Solid, CertSign with the eIDAS wallet certME, LEW, Enersec, Blockchain Engineering, Arobs, TailPath, Transylvania High Tech, WebitFactory are Romanian companies specialized in Blockchain development.

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 schimb de criptomonede.

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.

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

In March 2022, the Romanian Central Bank, has approved the acquisition of Twispay by Elrond, this being an important decision with implications for the evolution of digital finance in Europe, Elrond establishing itself as a bridge between traditional finance and the crypto space.

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.

În 2019 și 2020, BCR-InnovX Accelerator al National Bank of Romania selectate două proiecte Blockchain: Enersec‘s collaborative platform for IoT systems protection and Modex‘s project for managing banking databases.

Zitec is a company specialized in the development of digital transformation solutions, customized services and technological products, mobile applications, Blockchain, as well as digital marketing services. Its Blockchain portfolio consists of projects such as Persona, Aurus, Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX), Crypto One-Stop_Shop (COSS). Zitec was awarded as the company of the year at ANIS Gala, on March 31, 2022 (ANIS – Employers’ Association of the Software and Services Industry).

La începutul anului 2018 Restart Energy was launched, being a Blockchain-based energy ecosystem developed in Timisoara and cea mai rapidă creștere private energy and gas provider in the EU. At the beginning of 2021, the company a intrat într-o societate mixtă cu sediul în Washington, DC Interlink Strategii de capital 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.

Humans.ai is a deep-tech startup, with offices in Bucharest, London and Amsterdam, offering synthetic media products – simulating human voice, image and gestures using AI. The company introduced the first framework for ethical AI with Blockchain, and is also creating NFTs and cryptocurrency tokens linked to AI. In April 2022 it announces a new listing for its $HEART token on top tier Asian crypto exchange Liquid, a new step towards Humans.ai’s continued growth in the East Asian market.

Aurachain dezvoltat o 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 două soluții inovatoare 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).

În iulie 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, fondat de 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 proiect.

Instant Factoring, Morfin, Minutizer, Paybilla, Oveit si 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.

În aprilie 2021, AgTech TM by Agroland, an incubation program for innovative projects in agriculture, started to accelerate TailPath fondat de Sebastian Cochinescu, for a traceability use-case.

De asemenea, din 2018, Consensys has offices in Romania, in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca.

In April 2022, the Austrian unicorn fintech Bitpanda announced the opening of a Talent Hub in Bucharest, in which it has invested 10 million euros, and wants to hire over 70 IT specialists by the end of 2022. The coordinator is Rares Hutanu, as Director of Engineering. The management team of the Austrian fintech also includes Irina Scarlat, Chief Growth Officer (CGO) Bitpanda, former Revolut country manager in Romania, who was recognized by The Fintech Marketing Hub as one of the Top 30 Most Influential Fintech Marketers in 2022.

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

Also, Activize from Cluj-Napoca, coordinated by Mircea Vadan, publishes insightful analyzes on the Eastern European Startup Ecosystem, and offers a Startup Ecosystem Radar service.

1.3. 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 pentru a crea 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 si Sorin Paun, este 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 si Economistas.

Oracol is a mass integration project, having as objectives the adoption of Oracol Xor, the Oracol World Social Network creșterea și promovarea plăților mobile folosind Oracol Xor. CEO-ul său este Adrian Florea.

OncoChain, fondat de 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-ul anului 2019 și a reușit să atragă diferite finanțări.

aBey – Multi-Layered Programmable Blockchain High Volume Financial Transactions, operat de ABEY Foundation and coordinated by Ciprian Pungila si Viorel Negru, is 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. CEO-ul său este Iosif Peterfi.

TaskBar is a gig economy project, co-founded by Tudor Holotescu in 2019, and accelerated by Hedera Hashgraph, followed in 2021 by HeadStarter, a project accelerator and Launchpad of the Hedera Hashgraph Ecosystem, which took the second prize at the Global Blockchain Congress, in Dubai.

Lanceria is another gig economy project for freelancers, founded in 2021 by Mihai Sebastian Sararu from Timisoara, and developed by Zitec.

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 si Mihai Ciucudescrierea proiectului.

După ce a câștigat un Hedera hackathon with the project “Payper – P2P micro-payments for the Open API Economy“, Alex Males dezvoltat 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.

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

Lansat de 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 was published in the article Romania could be the next Berlin by 2020, scris de Bogdan Florin Ceobanu in 2018.

1.4. NFT initiatives

The first Romanian Martisor was minted on March 2021 on OpenSea, in April 2022 there are a few tens.

On April 12, 2021, Delia became the first renowned music artist in Romania to release an NFT (Non-Fungible Token), for the song Racheta, which was auctioned on the OpenSea platform.

In October 2021, at an exhibition at the Banat National Museum in Timisoara, the Romanian famous cartoonist Stefan Popa launched the “Leaders of the world seen by POPA’S” collection as NFTs.

Other Romanian NFT projects are presented in the article NFT marketing booming worldwide, published in March 2022.

More than 223,000 NFTs from more than 200 projects have been minted on the Elrond Network, and more than 22,000 accounts own at least one of them. The NFTs could be explored on Trust Market. Maybe the most well-known is the collection of 10,000 NFTs al Subcarpati band.

Coordinated by the mathematics teacher, Eduard Alin Grosu, Small Giants is a project of pupils from a school in Constanta, who transform their artistic works in NFTs, and sell them in order to equip the IT laboratory. Thus they also learn about Blockchain and crypto.

In March 2022, RevistaBiz coordinated by Marta Usurelu came with an innovative NFT cover, the first one in the country; and the creator of the NFT is Marius Goleanu, Head of Innovation KUBIS. The money raised from the NFT auction were donated to Hope and Homes for Children.

In March 2022 too, the Romanian health tech platform SanoPass has opened the digital portal sanopass.io to explore Web3.0 and the Metaverse for access to health services in Romania and Moldavia. sanopass.io marks the launch of a collection of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), SanoCubs, on the Blockchain of the Romanian platform Elrond.

Energy Vampires is a collection of 10,000 Elrond NFTs, created by a talented Romanian visual artist and designer. The project aims to be an ecosystem to increase the production of renewable energy, each NFT providing the development/acquisition of renewable energy production for reducing carbon footprint.

On April 14, Sebastian Burduja, a member of Romania’s Parliament and entrepreneur, and the new nominated Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization (on April 22), announced a NFT collection to support the reconstruction of Ukraine, including 9 NFTs, representing the martyr cities.

Vlad Dumitrescu, founder of Illustrescu, is one of the most talented NFT creators – check this katai podcast.

BuiDLer Labs, co-founded by Victor Holotescu in 2022, has developed Hedera Strato JS, an implementation of Hedera’s JavaScript SDK looking to speed up development of web3 dApps. To illustrate the utility of the Hedera Strato JS library the BuiDLer Labs team is showcasing an example of minting and transferring NFTs through Smart Contracts 2.0, explaining what the library is doing and how it behaves in comparison to the main SDK. The library is used also for conceiving a project for NFT in Education.

1.5. Mining

In Romania there are 39 nodes of the Bitcoin network, in April 2022 the country being on the 28th position in a top of 100 countries; also, with 11 Ethereum nodes, it is on the 32th position.

According to an article in April 2022, Tradesilvania.com, the premium investment platform in Cluj-Napoca specialized in cryptocurrency trading, is launching the world’s first certification for crypto miners, both in Romania and internationally. The certificate validates the mining activity of cryptocurrencies and the source of funds used in mining, which can be used as a supporting document for both financial institutions or VAT deduction, for legal entities. The company estimates that between 500 and 1000 crypto mining certificates will be issued this year, for its own customers in Romania, where the number of crypto miners is estimated at 10,000 companies and individuals, as well as for its customers in the European Economic Area.

1.6. 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 Dragos Stanca, has also many events and interviews related to Blockchain, such as the interview cu Beniamin Mincu despre Elrond.

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

1.7. 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 a avut loc.

Blockchain Talks was organized in February 2018.

The largest conference organized till now was the Romania Blockchain Summit, organized in June 2019, by the Romanian Blockchain Association.

Edițiile de Crypto Mondays attracted interested participants and discussions around many projects.

Future Banking is an international conference organized in 2019, 2020 and 2021, which has drawn the Romanian Fintech Map: 2020 edition, 2021 edition, both having the Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies category. Andreea Porojan, Fintech Partnerships Manager at Raiffeisen Bank Romania, underlined that “most probably banks will be focusing and spending on in 2021 are: Cybersecurity (71%), cloud computing & storage (60%), AI & RPA (40%), Blockchain (37%)” at the event “Future Banking Outlook” – 22 managers and Fintech founders on 2021 trends, challenges and where the money could flow.

In 2019, the Association “The mentoring project” published the book “The Digital Romania“, with chapters dedicated to Blockchain, while in May 2022 it organizes the meeting “Blockchain, NFTs, Smart contracts, Web3, Metaverse”, under the auspices of the Club Romania.

While all the above events took part in Bucharest, three interesting conferences were organized in 2018 and 2019 in Cluj-Napoca, Blockchain for Development Forum: The Future Now, Transylvania Crypto Conference si Mindchain, which explored the interaction between Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Spherik Accelerator si B-Hub for Europe a organizat evenimentul “The after-hype reality of Blockchain in Romania”, in February 2020, in Cluj-Napoca too, and the online workshop “Blockchain: Public Sector Use Case” în 28 ianuarie 2021.

In July 13-14, 2022, the Unchain Fintech Festival will be organized in Oradea, connecting Fintech and Blockchain global experts in the heart of Central and Eastern Europe, to uncover the potential of the region and partner in new business ventures.

1.8. Hackathons

În octombrie 2017, primul 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 took place, focused on engaging bright minds from the Blockchain & startup communities to contribute to the digitalization of processes in the public sector. The hackathon was 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.

Hedera22: Hello Smart Contracts is an online hackathon organized by Hedera, which takes place between March 31- May 16, 2022. Among the sponsors there are HeadStarter si BuiDLer Labs, which propose the Community Support Challenge, attracting teams from Romanian universities.

1.9. Payments

CryptoCoin, LDV Crypto Exchange, Tradesilvania si 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.”

1.10. Communities

The Romanian Blockchain Association was launched in March 2018, being coordinated by Armand Doru Domuta, 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.

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

It is worth mentioning the series of Facebook posts al National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics – ICI Bucharest, with basic notions related to Blockchain and NFT, starting with April 11, 2022.

Check also the section 2. Educational initiatives and projects.

1.12. 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 si 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 were being accelerated: AlphaBlock, Balance, Elrond, FilmChain, Moonlet, Morfin, Myneral Labs si Tailpath.

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 University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 France, 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, the project manager being Catalin Silvestru.

“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 – coordinator being Dr. Cosmin Cioranu si Politehnica University of Timisoara – UPT – coordinator being Prof.Dr.ing. Radu Vasiu. 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 – the node became operational in July 2021;
  • 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 Blockchain and EBSI by public and private services, by developing MOOCs on Unicampus, the MOOC platform of Politehnica University of Timisoara – the five MOOCs will be launched at the end of March 2022; the participants will receive micro-credentials issued on EBSI.

The node set up by the EBSI4RO project is the second EBSI 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, while the third one by the Special Telecommunications Service – STS in December 2021, thus Romania becoming one the countries with the most numerous EBSI nodes, all three being validator nodes.

Since July 2021, the EBSI4RO team takes part in the EBSI Early Adopters Programme and the multi-university pilot, together with other 20 projects from 18 European countries, issuing the first diplomas on EBSI in 14 cross-border scenarios.

Among other use-cases for micro-credentials, EBSI4RO will issue micro-credentials on EBSI for 55,000 teachers from pre-university system who were trained in 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.

As a recognition for its importance for the digitalization process, the EBSI4RO project was mentioned in the DESI country report for 2021.

Both EBSI4RO: Connecting Romania through Blockchain and the EERIS European Research Infrastructures System with its Blockchain reputation mechanism are presented on the EURAXESS site, under the section EURAXESS members in focus: Romania.

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 si Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, the coordinator being Sinica Alboaie.

PharmaLedger si WeldGalaxy are Horizon 2020 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 si Sinica Alboaie.

Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca is a partner in the Erasmus+ project “Dial4u – Digital Pedagogy to Develop Autonomy, Mediate and Certify Lifewide and Lifelong Language Learning for (European) Universities” (June 2021 – May 2023), coordinated by University of Lille, France; the project aims to contribute to the development of digital technologies and open pedagogy strategies in language teaching and learning processes and the results will be transferable, easy to disseminate and remotely verify, thanks to the system of digital badges and micro-credentials issued on the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) si Europass.

Starting with October 2021, CertSign (developer of certME) and the University of Bucharest are developing the project “IDBC. Identity attestation services in decentralized environments based on blockchain technologies“, funded by the Competitiveness Operational Programme and with a duration of 27 months.

Being a EU-funded project too, Nexity Network is a Blockchain Business Network that will allow enterprises to streamline collaboration across the supply chain and to make a shift from a linear economy to a circular one, by integrating Artificial Intelligence, CircleChain Tools and Blockchain.

1.13. National projects and policies

Launched in July 2020, eConsultare is a Blockchain platform developed by the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests cu 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 are implementing 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 and a national Blockchain strategy for the public administration, including a financing programme for the 2021–2027 financial period. Other ministries with responsibilities in the field of digital transformation and innovation, such as the Ministry of Development, Public Works and Administration, support this project. A public consultation on IA in Romania was launched on July 14, 2021.

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.

In April 2022, as part of the digitalization process, the Financial Supervisory Authority announced that it was carried out a pilot project testing the Blockchain technology, with the aim of improving work processes and reducing the volume of manually processed data. As a result, it was found that the institution’s existing reporting and data collection processes can be successfully improved, digitalized and secured using this technology.

In April 2022, the National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics – ICI Bucharest has started the implementation of the Romanian National Blockchain Framework; the universities in the country were notified and invited to host nodes of the network.

In a report “Barriers to Digitization of the public and private environment in Romania“, published by the Authority for the Digitalization of Romania in April 2021, it is stated the Romanian micro-enterprises are close to the European average in terms of the use of Big Data Analytics, AI and Blockchain, at a higher level than the use of other emerging technologies.

In the Public Policy for e-government, conceived in a project funded by the European Social Fund, and adopted by the government in June 2021, one of the measures is the development of non-sectoral projects to horizontally support the development of e-government (projects of Big Data, AI, Blockchain, high performance computing, quantum computing), under the coordination of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization.

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.

In order to implement the policy above, a tender for the Digital Transformation of Public Administration in Romania was open by the Authority for the Digitalization of Romania in December 2021, the chapter for Blockchain being funded with 3 million euro for 4 years. A note published later specifies that the tender was postponed.

A report published by the Authority for the Digitalization of Romania in April 2022 shows that the digitalization degree of the state is at 21%, the target being 100% in 2030, according to the Commission’s 2030 Digital Compass.

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (the plan in Romanian), approved in September 2021, specifies measures related to the digitalization of public administration and SMEs through the use of emerging technologies, including Blockchain and the development of training programs for these technologies.

At the end of March 2022, the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization has published for consultation the Applicant’s Guide for “Improving / retraining employees in SMEs in order to use emerging technologies (Cyber-Physical Systems, Robotics, Internet of Things, Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, RPA, additive manufacturing, blockchain)”.

1.14. 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 si Irina Albita.

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

1.15. Influencers

The report presents the work of over 80 innovators and drivers in this emerging technology, with their initiatives and LinkedIn profiles.

Special mentions deserve:

Mihai Alisie is Ethereum co-founder, Bitcoin Magazine creator and Akasha founder. At the end of 2020, he was one of the lecture of “Entrepreneurship in Blockchain“, the first postgraduate program in this field in the country, organized by the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics from the West University of Timisoara.

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 Timisoara, 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.

At the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics al Universitatea de Vest din Timisoara, starting with 2020, the Introduction to Blockchain course at the undergraduate level is taught by Cristian Cira, who was awarded by ANIS for this course.

Beginning with 2020, the course “Blockchain: Foundations and Applications” is taught by Dr.Emanuel Onica si Dr.Andrei Arusoaie at Faculty of Computer Science, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi – the two lectures were awarded for the course by ANIS – Employers’ Association of the Software and Services Industry.

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 of  Cluj-Napoca. Offering a comprehensive study and research pragramme in emerging technologies, Babes-Bolyai University of  Cluj-Napoca has been accepted in the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), as the only Romanian university within the EIT DIGITAL.

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 an 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 Universitatea de Vest din Timisoara, which has a research group in Blockchain, coordinated by Professor Viorel Negru and Lecturer Ciprian Pungila. The program tutors are members of the university – Ciprian Pungila, Cristian Cira 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 Domuta, CEO Restart Energy, and academics from other universities – Professor Carmen Holotescu, “Ioan Slavici” University of Timisoara and Razvan Bogdan, Politehnica University of Timisoara. Webinar, article si FB notes presenting the program.

The National Institute for Research and Development in Informatics – ICI Bucharest has an European Center for Excellence in Blockchain, launched in 2018. Also, starting with the summer of 2020, through the Executive Blockchain Laboratory, coordinated by Dr. Paul Niculescu-Mizil Gheorghe, 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: Universitatea de Vest din Timisoara, Carol I National Defense University si Ioan Slavici University of Timisoara.

IEEE Romania Blockchain Group was founded in June 2021 at Politehnica University of Bucharest, to focus on IEEE Blockchain Initiative (BCI), such as Pre/Standards, Education, Conferences and Events, Community Development and Outreach, Publications, and Special Projects for the East Europe Section.

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 updating the report, April 2022, Web of Science indexes 18,843 articles on Blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology (Topic: “Blockchain*” OR “Smart contract*” OR “distributed ledger”), two third being written by authors from China (26.8%), USA (20%), India (8.8%), UK (6.9%) and Australia (5.6%). The number of articles has doubled in an year – see the previous report.

The most quoted article – with 1500 ISI citations and 3661 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 189 articles (1%) – 93 last year, the country being on the 32nd place out of 141 countries that have at least one indexed article.

With 245 ISI citations and 454 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.

However, narrowing the search to articles related to Blockchain applications in education, Web of Science indexes 488 articles, 20 being from Romania, which thus appears on the 8th place of the 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 Universitatea de Vest din 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 si INACO.

2.4. Educational Blockchain projects

RO-Certs, un proiect de OpenEduChain, implemented by the report’s authors, is a system for issuing certificates on Blockchain, functional since the spring of 2018 and the first 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 appreciation 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.

The most important educational project is “EBSI4RO: Conectarea României prin Blockchain” which is presented in the section 1.12. EU Funded Projects.

2.5. Other educational initiatives

In 2019, Politehnica University of Timisoara si 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 September 2021, INACO – Initiative for Competitiveness published the fourth 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 2018-2021, 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 April 2021, the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu (ULBS) announced that the institution’s students would be able to use (eGold) cryptocurrency to pay the tuition fee, following a partnership between the university and the well-known Sibiu-based start-up Elrond  – but neither Elrond and the institution didn’t make any new updates on this topic since then.

Blockchain is in attention for the pre-university system curriculum: Timis County School Inspectorate has organized in January 2022 a methodical activity about Blockchain with ICT teachers.

Already presented in the NFT section, we mention again Small Giants, coordinated by the mathematics teacher, Eduard Alin Grosu, a project of pupils from a school in Constanta, who transform their artistic works in NFTs, and sell them in order to equip the IT laboratory; thus they also learn about Blockchain and crypto.

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 al 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 “EBSI4RO: Connecting Romania though Blockchain” (2021-2023), these representing the alignment to the EBSI Diplomas use-case si European Micro-credentials strategy.

Conclusions and proposals

One can note an important increase in the public awareness and adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency in Romania, especially in the last 2 to 3 years.

As drivers for this process can be considered:

  • an important number of events, conferences, and webinars, with national and international participation;
  • active specialized social media channels/influencers, many articles on visible sites or magazines;
  • active communities of interest and practice, and associations;
  • in education, there are innovative initiatives, projects, university and postgraduate programs, MOOCs, productive research teams, and also policy proposals;
  • a visible presence in media and social media of successful and innovative Blockchain companies and projects, their participation in different national and worldwide (e-)events; also their support and partnership in academic programs, or hackathons;
  • NFT phenomenon and some interesting Romanian projects of NFT and crypto art;
  • some government projects, initiatives, and working groups – organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Society prior the Romania Blockchain Summit in 2019, by the Authority for the Digitalization of Romania at the end of 2020 and the one gathered in January 2022 by Sebastian Burduja, the new nominated Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization, for drafting a law project for the regulation of crypto-assets.

The most active Blockchain centres for companies, events, courses and trainings are Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Iasi, Constanta, Sibiu and Brasov. Also, an important number of startups founded by Romanians are active in Europe, Asia or USA, with a strong presence in media and events.

According to a recent market research conducted by IPSOS Romania for Tradesylvania si published in January 2022, 96% of Romanians heard about crypto, 50% know about NFT and 40% have or had cryptocurrency. Two-thirds of people familiar with cryptocurrencies believe that they can represent both the future of online payments and the future of investment.

During the last two years there were registered a few innovative government projects, including the ongoing development of a national Blockchain strategy, also some pioneering projects in Europe, such as the Blockchain voting reporting tool for the national parliamentary elections in 2020, and a national system and policies for verifiable diplomas and micro-credentials on the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI).

For the wider development of the Blockchain ecosystem we consider that that the following issues require solutions:

  • a clear regulatory regime in areas pertaining to crypto-assets and Blockchain-based applications, aligned with European and worldwide initiatives; this makes Blockchain a much more approachable industry, giving companies and start-ups clear definitions for how they should proceed and providing protections for investors; as already mentioned above, a working group was gathered in January 2022 by Sebastian Burduja, the new nominated Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization, for drafting a law project for the regulation of crypto-assets;
  • blended Blockchain training programs, integrating Massive Open Online Courses, Open Educational Resources, collaboration with universities and companies having experience in Blockchain, and not the sterile transmission of information in f2f courses; the standards defined by INATBA si CHAISE should also be considered;
  • transparency of participation in the European Blockchain Partnership, informing companies and universities, which could be involved in the development of European Blockchain Services Initiatives (EBSI) and decentralized applications; let’s notice again that Romania is the only country having 3 EBSI validator nodes;
  • a dynamic system for supporting start-ups, companies and also universities offering educational programs in the field – as mentioned by Sabin Sarmas, president of ICT Committee in the Chamber of Deputies, former president of the Authority for the Digitization of Romania;
  • communication of the ministries and agencies that implement projects in the field and transparency in organizing efficient working groups.

More collaboration, sharing of experience and best practices, dissemination of the ongoing projects, a more pro-active approach are needed for those acting in the Blockchain field, from administration, business and academia.

A note on the need to promote the projects and initiatives using specific channels, such as:

Since November 20, 2020, when EU Blockchain Observatory published the report EU Blockchain Ecosystem latest developments, there is a huge progress on all the four axis favoring Blockchain development, mentioned in the report: work towards regulation, the ongoing development of a national Blockchain strategy, strong steps for an innovation-friendly climate, and multiple programmes for a skilled workforce.

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 si 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.

The second version was the report published on Medium in January 2021.

Suggestions for improvements are welcome – please contact the authors.