Mastercard has partnered with fintech consortium R3 to develop and pilot a new blockchain-enabled cross-border business-to-business (B2B) payments solution.

The payments system will focus on connecting global payment infrastructures, payment schemes and banks through a clearing and settlement network operated by Mastercard.

It will be built on R3’s Corda enterprise platform and aims to standardise and speed up B2B payment processes, while also addressing other issues such as liquidity management.

“The partnership is significant for a number of reasons,” managing director at R3, Charley Cooper tells GTR. “Mastercard is not only in the market to pilot blockchain technology, but to run its payment infrastructure on it, which is a huge step.”

While Mastercard tells GTR the rollout date of the technology won’t be until sometime next year, this partnership comes as part of Mastercard’s wider strategy to move into the B2B cross-border payments space following its acquisition of New York-based global cross-border payments network provider Transfast in July.

This latest development comes just days after Mastercard became the newest member of the Marco Polo network, a technology project led by trade finance blockchain company TradeIX and a consortium of banks to build an open account trade finance platform powered by R3’s Corda framework.

As part of its membership, Mastercard will leverage Mastercard Track, its B2B global trade platform, to provide more businesses with access to Marco Polo’s trade and working capital finance solutions.

Launched in 2018, Mastercard Track brings together nine B2B networks and procure-to-pay solution providers – Basware, BirchStreet, Coupa, the Infor GT Nexus Commerce Network, Ivalua, Jaggaer, Liaison Technologies, Tradeshift and Tungsten Network – to utilise Track’s compliance and payment management solutions.

The platform connects these existing networks, which are typically buyer-centric, onto one platform. This is particularly beneficial to suppliers around the world, who often use multiple platforms for different buyers.

Cooper adds: “For Mastercard, joining with R3 on cross-border payments and the Marco Polo project complement each other. The interconnectivity of finance means that improvements in one area of commerce inevitability benefits other areas. The two ways we are working with Mastercard are different, but there are benefits to Mastercard as a partner of both.”

Mastercard is not the only payments company moving into the B2B space. It also faces tough competition in the shape of Visa’s B2B Connect, a cross-border blockchain payment service built with IBM Blockchain on the Hyperledger platform, which Visa launched in June to enable cross-border corporate transactions to be made quickly and securely. Visa says it aims to expand its solution to as many as 90 markets by the end of 2019.