The platform aims to simplify domestic and cross-border trade for SMEs in Europe while increasing transaction transparency, IBM said.
Blockchain is best known for underpinning trading involving the digital currency bitcoin, but it has many other potential uses. Broadly it is a shared digital ledger for recording information, such as the transfer of assets between two or more parties.
The Digital Trade Chain Consortium is made up of Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Rabobank, Societe Generale and Unicredit. Its platform aims to make trade finance easier by managing, tracking and securing transactions online and on mobile devices, IBM said.
Rudi Peeters, chief information officer of KBC said: "[IBM's] blockchain and banking industry expertise will help us create a new platform for small and medium businesses in Europe that can enable them for faster, easier and cheaper trade transactions. According to the World Bank, 50% of SMEs do not have access to formal credit."
The platform will be built on Hyperledger Fabric v1.0.0, an open source blockchain framework and one of the five Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation, and hosted on the IBM Cloud. The Digital Trade Chain is expected to go into production by end of 2017.
The consortium started in January 2017 and is expected to grow to include additional banks and trading partners such as shippers, freight forwarders and credit agencies, IBM said.