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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N028198/1
Title: Ox-Chain: Towards secure and trustworthy circular economies through distributed ledger technologies
Principal Investigator: Speed, Professor C
Other Investigators:
Davies, Professor N Vines, Professor J KIAYIAS, Professor A
Bunduchi, Dr R
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Oxfam GB
Department: Edinburgh College of Art
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2016 Ends: 31 August 2019 Value (£): 992,269
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Processes Human Communication in ICT
Human-Computer Interactions Information & Knowledge Mgmt
Management & Business Studies Networks & Distributed Systems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Environment Retail
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Feb 2016 DETIPS Full Proposals Meeting 2 February 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The Ox-Chain project responds to specific challenges identified by global consultants McKinsey & Company for the UK based charity Oxfam that highlights how much value is lost within the existing business model, which currently sends between 70-80% of its received second hand clothes to a recycling centre. The research team propose that by using distributed ledger technology, such as the Blockchain that supports the Bitcoin digital currency, a different business model can be developed that involves the donors, the shoppers and the staff at Oxfam in identifying the value of second hand items and helping them to move to places where they will can be sold.

The donation model that was developed in the 1940s by Oxfam still relies on individuals to make a judgement about the value of donated items. It is impossible for one person to know where an item can be better used or cherished - the result is that many items do not reach places within the Oxfam network where they might be resold and not recycled. Internet technologies such as distributed ledgers have the potential to turn the network of 670 Oxfam shops into an online auctioning platform, in which the collective knowledge of thousands of people can bid to keep items in the world.

Such a project offers significant insights into how decentralised technologies can better support business and society as we move toward what is described as a Circular Economy. A 'Circular Economy' in one in which resources are kept in-use for as long as possible, and their maximum value extracted whilst in use followed by the recovery of materials at the end of each service life. However, if more people are to become involved in the valuation of objects and materials within the ecosystems of business, communities and charities then we have to find ways to protect them. Moving to a sharing economy in which technology helps us to move things that we no longer need to places where they will be more valued, has the potential to disrupt existing models of trust, identity and privacy.

The use of distributed ledger technologies to manage permissions and privacy in such a way as to build the trust of participants offers a significant opportunity to demonstrate the potential to reshape our concepts of how our economies operate.
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