Digital Catapult and the UK Games Fund have announced a working prototype smart contract designed to inspire talented individuals to work outside of their circles of trust and create new intellectual property (IP).

The smart contract uses Ethereum blockchain technology, which formalises the process of fractionalising IP ownership and revenue sharing, to ultimately help drive democratised creative team work. Whilst currently being trialled for games development, the smart contract application has potential for the creative, digital industries and beyond. This technology could be invaluable in any collaborative work, which requires a complex blend of inputs and unpredictable outputs and outcomes, in areas such as virtual and augmented reality through to the creation of music.

Early stage independent games development teams often require a level of flexibility that makes company law and standard legal frameworks less appropriate. This inflexibility provides numerous challenges for those collaborating on a creative project, particularly when new people come on-board or leave at different stages, or when people are contributing very different things into the mix.

Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult: “In looking at ways to better support games developers we identified a number of challenges facing those working in the early-stage ecosystem. Company law and practice is too often an inhibition on creative innovation. Our work with the UK Games Fund is focused on discovering better ways to serve those in creative teams, providing them with the freedom and tools to develop the games of the future. Our aim is to build an inter-connected ecosystem that supports new approaches and helps to remove barriers.

“We’re committed to supporting digital innovation and collaborations such as this one with the UK Games Fund allow us to develop a solution that addresses a real industry need. Our smart contracts demonstrate the practical potential of blockchain, and how this kind of technology can be applied to varying business problems to transform the way people collaborate together on creative projects. This really is just the start.”

As part of the announcement, Digital Catapult and the UK Games Fund has released a whitepaper, titled Tal Stories: A new concept for creative teams to share project ownership and revenues. The paper details how blockchain technology can be applied to help ensure individual inputs and outcomes are in correlation when creative teams come together to develop new creative IP.

Using Ethereum blockchain technology, the smart contract prototype will be able to keep a register of individual contributions to a project and provides simple-to-use connections between the smart contracts and real currency.

Initially the UK Games Fund has tested the prototype with a group of 20 creative teams that are part of its graduate ‘Tranzfuser’ funding programme. Real-world feedback from those currently developing games will be essential to its development and will help identify opportunities for its application across other sectors and by a global audience.

Paul Durrant, Director of UK Games Talent and Finance CIC said, “We’re working to strengthen the UK’s early-stage ecosystem for independent games developers and we see this as a way to both simplify and democratise the creative process. We’re also really keen to build a trusted business system that incentivises creative talent to work outside their circles of trust as that will lead to greater innovation.”

Both the Digital Catapult and UK Games Fund are looking to work with other partners from the creative or wider digital economy sectors where a smart contract could be applied to solve a similar issue, to help develop it further. The Digital Catapult aims to create a sandpit environment to facilitate further innovation around the smart contract concept.

More information about the smart contracts prototype, developed by Digital Catapult and the UK Games Fund, and how you can be involved in the project can be found here.