The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is taking over the leadership of the Universal Trade Network (UTN) as part of efforts to develop standards and protocols to enable the next digital era in trade.

First revealed by GTR in November last year, the UTN is a project initiated by blockchain firms TradeIX and R3 together with banks involved in the blockchain project known as Marco Polo. Its initial focus was on connectivity between blockchain networks developed on Corda, with a longer-term view of becoming technology-agnostic in order to create a network-of-networks, allowing for interoperability with networks run on rival blockchain frameworks (such as Hyperledger Fabric), as well as non-blockchain networks.

While the UTN was initially spearheaded by TradeIX and R3, the parties have long sought to create an independent governing body. At the time, GTR reported that the ICC was a potential candidate to take over management of the initiative – a development which was confirmed yesterday at Sibos in London with an announcement by Alisa DiCaprio, R3’s global head of research and trade.

“The UTN is an initiative that started out of the recognition that blockchain is a part of digitisation, and digitisation has resulted in siloed data. The original banks and tech companies in UTN set out to create standards that will function as the infrastructure that will allow for interoperability of the different technology platforms of the future,” said DiCaprio, during an ICC panel at the event. “The membership has grown in both number and diversity. Today for example, there are reps from all of the different blockchain platforms. The message resonates with everyone involved in trade. It’s expanded quite beyond what the initial group was expecting. Because of this growth and the existing leadership of the ICC in the digital standards space, it made sense for the ICC to take the reins.” She added that the UTN will now be called the digital standards initiative (DSI), and will be run by the ICC while retaining its original mission and characteristics.

By taking advantage of the ICC’s position as a neutral party, the DSI will now be able to get buy-in from all participants across the trade ecosystem as it seeks to ensure efforts to modernise the industry aren’t stymied by the creation of numerous disparate digital islands.