The Centre for Digital Trade & Innovation (C4DTI) is an ICC United Kingdom-led, global initiative based at Teesside University established with support from the Tees Valley Combined Authority; #techUKDigitalTrade
The C4DTI provides an impartial environment in which industry and government can collaborate on practical pilot work to accelerate the pace and scale of digitalisation, ensure there is a consistent application of standards, rules and laws and increase the prospects for the adoption of digital trading processes in the future. The C4DTI is agnostic to technology, and advocates for open, interoperable systems.
The trading system suffers from antiquated laws and a lack of standardisation. As a result, systems are fragmented, and processes are unnecessarily paper-heavy, inefficient and costly, especially for smaller companies.
A typical trade transaction can take up to 2-3 months to complete and involve up to 27 paper documents. Four billion paper documents float through the trading system at any given time, and only 1% of bills of lading are currently handled in digital form.
The C4DTI is helping to address the market failure that has worked against the large-scale adoption of digital processes in trade in the UK and globally.
The Story so Far
The C4DTI is a strong advocate for reform, and supports the UK Government's Electronic Trade Documents Bill and the ICC's Digital Standards Initiative.
The C4DTI delivers training to support SMEs and global supply chain ecosystems. and is also actively engaged in research to provide thought leadership and identify potential barriers and solutions to digitalisation. This research includes a baseline investigation into Tees Valley-based SME's capacity, interest and capability for digital trade, and to participate in the C4DTI's testbed and pilot projects.
One of the C4DTI's current pilot projects is focused on trade between the UK and Singapore. The main objective of this pilot is to achieve interoperability between systems that are digitalizing the process of creating, issuing, transferring, and endorsing bills of lading, using a blockchain-based system to enable secure and efficient sharing of trade-related documents in an immutable format. Good progress is being made.
The Road Ahead
With the expected passage of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill, the UK is likely to become the first major global economy to enable critical documents used in trade, such as the Bill of Lading, to be assured and transferred digitally with full legal effect. This has the potential to bring huge benefits to all trading entities, large and small.
However the new legislation is only an enabler, and its provisions need to be put into practice on an open and internationally collaborative basis. The C4DTI will continue to play a vital role in enabling that collaboration, and showing how those benefits can be realised.