European countries are banking on blockchain. Here’s how jobs in the sector are growing

By Kirstie McDermott

When you say “blockchain,” many people’s Pavlovian response is “crypto”. And sure enough, blockchain – a decentralised, digital ledger technology that enables secure and transparent peer-to-peer transactions without the need for intermediaries – is the backbone of most cryptocurrencies.

It is the technology underpinning Bitcoin. The original Bitcoin blockchain was designed as an immutable public ledger that records all Bitcoin transactions.

Because it’s impossible to change historical records on this ledger, everyone can see how many Bitcoins were transferred from one account to another at any given point in time – which makes it impossible for people to lie about how much money they have or where their funds came from.

It is also a relatively new technology. Invented in 2008 by an unknown person or persons using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto (The word “Satoshi” means “clear thinking, quick-witted” in Japanese), it has a myriad of uses beyond digital currencies.

A sector in growth

Nowadays, the use cases for blockchain technology have grown enormously. One obvious initial sector for adoption was that of banking and finance, and the technology is already extensively used in the wider finance sphere for payments, remittances, digital identity and asset management.

In fact, blockchain technology is helping the traditional pillar banks move into the fintech and neo-banking spaces.

In 2017, IBM began a project to build blockchain technology for a consortium of seven of Europe’s largest banks, including HSBC and Rabobank. The aim was to facilitate international trade for small and medium-size enterprises.

These days, you’ll find blockchain technology used in the day-to-day operations of many big and household name companies, including Microsoft, Oracle, JP Morgan, Amazon and Facebook.

It has applications in manufacturing and supply chain management, offering better traceability, transparency and accountability.

The healthcare sector is using blockchain’s ledger technology for secure sharing of medical records and data management, and global governments are utilising it for voting systems, land registry and identity management.

There are numerous other applications too, across real estate, where it can be used for property listings, property transfers and mortgage processing, and in education, retail and gaming.

It is no surprise then that the global blockchain market was valued at $7.18 billion (€6.55 billion) in 2022. It is set to grow to $163.83 billion (€149.51 billion) by 2029, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate of 56.3 per cent.

Wider potential, new applications

Potential applications are still being explored, and experts predict that it will become a simpler technology to use, too.

Lawrence Landeloos, founder of OneGrid, which aims to make NFTs more accessible, told EY that he believes blockchain is the future of business.“I’m convinced that blockchain can transform business models and even entire organisational models,” he said.

Landeloos said one downside is that blockchain technology is currently too complex, but he thinks this will change.

“Just as no-code solutions like WordPress and Wix have democratised website creation, we want to radically lower the barrier to experimenting with blockchain technology” he said. “The more we experiment, the more valuable concepts will emerge”.

For those looking to upskill now, or future-proof their careers, there are many benefits to a career in blockchain.

Careers in the blockchain sector

Because the blockchain sector is still in its early stages of development, there is significant potential for growth, career advancement, plus the opportunity to learn and hone bleeding-edge skills.

Some of the biggest issues facing European employers include a skills gap and a small talent pool. The EU’s Study on skills mismatches in the European Blockchain sector has found that more than half of European companies have recruiting problems because of these issues.

To close this supply and demand gap, the EU launched its educational CHAISE initiative in November 2020. A four-year project, funded through the EU’s Erasmus+ program, it aims to design a strategy to address Europe’s missing blockchain skills.

In the future, roles could develop such as smart contract auditor, or environmental specialists, responsible for developing strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of blockchain networks and make them more environmentally friendly.

The kinds of roles you may see now include node operators, software developers (particularly those coding in C++) as well as solution architects and project managers.

And when it comes to jobs in the blockchain sector, Europe is leading the global field. Luxembourg has the most crypto jobs in the world, followed by Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Career potential is huge: Gartner predicts the business value generated by blockchain will increase, reaching $176 billion (€160 billion) by 2025 and $3.1 trillion (€2.8 trillion) by 2030, and VCs continue to invest billions of dollars into sector startups – and that means jobs.

Companies are hiring right now: In Paris, video game company Cometh is seeking a Blockchain Developer to develop, test and deploy smart contracts and collaborate with cross-functional teams to create decentralised applications.

In Berlin, KPMG is hiring a Senior Consultant to work across neobanking and fintechs.

In this role you’ll take over the development of new business ideas, analysis of market trends and design of innovative products and processes, including digital assets CBDC, crypto and security tokens.

Or, check out this Senior Director, Risk role at crypto firm Binance in Paris. A global blockchain company behind the world’s largest digital asset exchange by trading volume and users, its mission is to accelerate cryptocurrency adoption and increase the freedom of money.

Environmental challenges to building up blockchain

Blockchain technology isn’t without its downsides. Crypto mining has come under heavy criticism for its huge drain on energy.

In 2020 mining for Bitcoin used 75.4 terawatt hours of electricity (TWh), which is a higher electricity usage than Austria (69.9 TWh) or Portugal (48.4 TWh) in that year, according to a study from Scientific Reports.

Despite that, the EU is clear that it wants to lead in blockchain technology, becoming an innovator and the location of platforms, applications and companies, according to its Blockchain Strategy.

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