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The European Union has announced its intention to do more to support blockchain development, as startups, banks and regulators turn an increasing focus to the possibilities created by the technology.

The EU Commission, the body’s executive branch, has said it intends to expand its efforts in blockchain development, as part of a Europe-wide drive toward more development in this emerging space.

The technology, which is used as the framework for digital currencies like Bitcoin, has a number of other potential applications across government, finance and industry. The indication of more support from the European Commission has been welcomed by those developing blockchain services within the EU, as they continue to test and tweak new iterations.

According to Andrus Ansip, the commission’s vice-president, the commission will do more to complement existing efforts targeting the development of blockchain applications.

“The commission is already supporting (distributed ledger tech)-enabled projects. Support activities are going to increase in the coming months. 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 announcement comes off the back of the recently established blockchain task force, set up to explore ways in which the EU can help foster research and development into practical uses for the distributed ledger.

Through supporting innovative pilot projects, and by working in close collaboration with industry partners and other arms of EU government, it is hoped the commission’s support will help accelerate developments around the technology.

Industry analysts are projecting 2017 to be an important time for the development of blockchain technologies, both across Europe and beyond. While mainstream commercial implementation may still be some years away, more support from governments and regulators is essential for developers to move forward with their plans for the blockchain.

Ansip also spelled out the commission’s next move, to rekindle its joint projects with the European Parliament, in exploring ways the technology could be adapted to specific industry functions.

“The commission will organize a kickoff conference with the European Parliament on Demystifying Blockchain and a series of workshops to look at blockchain developments and use case applications.”