European Commission announces ‘OntoChain’ project with iExec as key partner

Anthony Simonet-Boulogne
Published in
7 min readSep 18, 2020


The European Commission has announced the €6 million funding of ‘OntoChain’. The project is part of the European Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative. Being one of 7 core partners, iExec brings expertise in blockchain and confidential computing.


As a technology partner for ONTOCHAIN, iExec would like to take the opportunity to introduce the initial projects that were successful for ‘ONTOCHAIN Open Call 1’, and were selected to receive the first funding rewards.

An introduction to Ontology

“What’s air quality like in Madrid today?”

“How long does it take to drive to Paris?”

“What is the price of BTC in USD?”

These are the types of questions we have become quite used to asking our virtual assistants, be it Google, Siri, or any other service. But how are the responses generated? They are all based on ‘Ontology’ services. Ontology is a set of techniques that tell us the representation, standardized naming, and definitions of concepts, and how different concepts relate to each other. These categorizations are essential in building the foundations for the future generation of interoperable technologies.

iExec selected by European Commission to help create a software ecosystem for the Next-Generation Internet

As part of the enterprise development updates promised in September and October, iExec is excited to share that the European Commission has announced the ‘OntoChain’ project with iExec as a key partner. In September, the commission announced the €6million funding of OntoChain, as part of the European Next Generation Internet (NGI) initiative.

OntoChain marries the worlds of the Semantic Web and Blockchain to deliver a new software ecosystem for trusted, traceable, and transparent ontological knowledge management. iExec is one of seven core partners from all over Europe who have been working for almost a year to see this idea become a reality. Being the only partner with extensive experience in blockchain and trusted computation, iExec will now be able to play a significant role in academic and industrial research towards future technology standards in Europe.

Adoption is the primary focus for iExec as we move towards the end of 2020 and beyond. OntoChain is a unique opportunity to bring iExec decentralized cloud computing solutions, that have been developed over the past 2 years, to new domains and markets, helping develop new applications. At the heart of NGI and OntoChain is the idea of increasing trust in data to create novel business models that fairly remunerate providers. iExec Confidential Computing (using Trusted Execution environments) is one of the earliest examples of this in the industry.

Introduction to OntoChain:

OntoChain is part of NGI (Next Generation Internet), a European initiative to re-shape the Internet into a more human-centric network, with a special focus on the values of privacy, collaboration and diversity.

OntoChain starts from a simple idea; first, the Semantic Web and associated services now make it possible for people from all over the world to participate in the generation and use of knowledge like never before. Second, this knowledge represented in a machine-readable format is now being served to end-users and application developers through simple interfaces, but the way it is generated, curated and stored raises concerns. In fact, the number of these Internet-based services is so small that they have become increasingly influential in the past decades. This concentration of information into the hands of a few widely used services makes citizens everywhere at risk of being presented partial or biased information reflecting the viewpoint of their provider. The solution OntoChain proposes is thus to marry Semantic Web and Blockchain to provide a trusted knowledge backbone for Internet users.

Just like the Web3 community is decentralizing finance, computing, storage, insurance, and so on — OntoChain aims to decentralize Semantic Web Services.

Because of the centralized role of today’s ontology services, we expect OntoChain to have a massive impact on virtually every application domain: finance, energy, social networking and fact-checking, healthcare, transportation, manufacturing and many more.

iExec is one of seven partners with complementary expertise that cover all aspects of the ecosystem: European Dynamics (Luxembourg), the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), IntelliSemantic (Italy), the Athens University of Economics and Business (Greece), the German Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Germany) and F6S (Ireland). As blockchain experts, we provide guidance to anyone getting involved in OntoChain during the next three years. In addition, iExec will play an important role in the experimental phase of the project, providing technical support and mentorship to anyone who is willing to join forces.

The roadmap of OntoChain

OntoChain is a Research and Innovation Action (RIA) based on a ‘cascade funding’ model. This means that out of the €6M, the consortium will redistribute €4.2M to third parties through successive open calls taking place over the next three years.

The trusted knowledge ecosystem will be built by a large, open body of European stakeholders, supported by the OntoChain consortium partners. The project will follow agile software development methods and invite eligible members of European countries to contribute to specific tasks via three successive open calls (further divided into two to three phases):

  • Call #1: Research stakeholders from different vertical sectors will be invited to produce functional and technical specifications for the framework. This will be provided through research proposals and awards.
  • Call #2: Foundations on year two experts and enthusiasts will be invited to build components of the OntoChain framework, guided by real use-cases and results produced during the first year.
  • Call #3: Application & Experimentation building on results from the first two calls, practitioners will be invited to implement real-world technical solutions and business applications contributing to a sustainable and democratic ecosystem.

For each call, the proposed projects will be evaluated and selected by a board composed of both the core partners and independent experts.

Very soon, iExec and the other six partners will publish details of the first phase of open calls for projects. Applicants will be encouraged to reuse and extend existing software solutions, including those from iExec, to contribute to the scope of OntoChain. During this process, iExec will offer its decentralized platform and products to the NGI community and will support third parties (you) in improving them, experimenting and integrating them in the OntoChain ecosystem. This includes the iExec decentralized cloud marketplace (a perfect example of a platform where providers are rewarded fairly for their contributions); the iExec Data Wallet and trusted computing solutions, which can be used to monetize datasets while maintaining ownership; and the Proof-of-Contribution (PoCo) consensus protocol that keeps full data provenance and traceability of how data is used in a competitive network.

From the very beginning, it is very important to note that selected applicants will not only receive funding. Successful candidates will receive mentorship and support covering all aspects of their project, including guidance on technical and business aspects.

Needless to say that everyone at iExec is extremely proud and excited to take part in this program! At the fall of this difficult year, with so many events being postponed and canceled, we hope that OntoChain will allow for innovators to collaborate in new ways. Ultimately, the project will aid in presenting iExec technologies on an international stage over the years to come.

Get involved

There are several ways to get involved in OntoChain. Even before the first call is published, we would encourage you to keep an eye out for the multitude of workshop events taking place over the next few weeks! We also want to hear from you, so be on the lookout for open sessions in which developers, entrepreneurs, innovators, enthusiasts will be invited to present their ideas and get feedback from the consortium. iExec will share details of these events very soon followed by the initial calls for projects within the coming weeks.

About iExec:

iExec has developed the first decentralized marketplace for cloud computing resources. Blockchain is used to organize a market network where users can monetize their computing power, applications, and datasets. By providing on-demand access to cloud computing resources, iExec supports compute-intensive applications in fields such as AI, big data, healthcare, rendering, or FinTech. Anyone can be rewarded in RLC tokens for contributing resources to the network.

One of the main strengths of iExec lies in trusted off-chain computing. In partnership with Intel, iExec has released the first-ever ‘trusted compute’ solution for blockchain (TEE using Intel SGX). iExec is working with various organizations and consortiums with the goal of providing scalable, secure and easy access to the services, datasets, and computing resources.

About OntoChain:

ONTOCHAIN with a €6 M fund marries the Semantic Web with Blockchain to deliver a novel software ecosystem for trusted, traceable and transparent ontological knowledge management. ONTOCHAIN, which is developed under the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative, explores and delivers novel interoperable on-chain and off-chain data, ontology, knowledge and information management methods. The ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem consists of a novel protocol suite grouped into high-level application protocols, such as data provenance, reputation models, decentralised oracles, market mechanisms, ontology representation and management, privacy aware and secure data exchange, multi-source identity verification, value sharing and incentives and similar, and core protocols that include smart contracts, authorisation, certification, event gateways, identity management and identification, secure and privacy aware decentralised storage, data semantics and semantic linking, ONTOCHAIN optimisation and similar. The NGI ONTOCHAIN software ecosystem will demonstrate its potential in high impact domains, such as eHealth, eGovernment, eEducation, eCommerce, decentralised infrastructures and similar in order to achieve trustworthy information exchange and trustworthy and transactional content handling.

💡 Want to learn more about iExec? Check out iExec Academy!

iExec Academy aggregates all content related to the project. You’ll find articles, tech documentation, videos, interactive demos, and much more! Whether you are a beginner or an expert, a developer or crypto-enthusiast, you’ll find what you are looking for on iExec Academy!