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Smart Contracts

"A smart contract is an automatable and enforceable agreement. Automatable by computer, although some parts may require human input and control. Enforceable either by legal enforcement of rights and obligations or via tamper-proof execution of computer code." — Smart Contract Templates: foundations, design landscape and research directions, C.D.Clack, V.A.Bakshi and L.Braine. 2016. arXiv:1608.00771. [Link to arXiv repository][BibTeX]

Smart Contracts utilize computer technology to automate an agreement. However, the term "smart contract" is used in different ways according to context: as originally envisaged in the mid 1990s by Szabo [Link], the term "smart contract" embraced automation at many different levels during the lifecycle of an agreement; yet since 2013 it has also been used to describe computer code developed for a scripting functionality provided by some distributed ledger systems (e.g. Ethereum [Link]). Since much of our work is interdisciplinary, and brings together researchers from different groups who use the term "smart contract" in subtly different ways, we use the above (now widely cited) portmanteau definition

Further notes on terminology can be found here

Our research interests are listed below and include (inter alia): legal drafting and legal specification languages ("computable contracts"), privacy, semantics and analysis, Smart Derivatives Contracts, Smart Contract Templates, smart contract code and associated system architectures.


Our research interests are very broad and we interact with a large number of other groups. Our interests currently include:

  • Smart Contract Technology
    • languages and representations for Smart Contracts
    • privacy aspects of smart contracts and smart contract code
  • Smart Derivatives Contracts
    • Smart Contract Templates
    • Institutional workflow
    • ISDA legal document architacture and workflow
    • ISDA Common Domain Model CDM)
  • Smart legal contracts
    • computable contracts
    • legal specification languages
    • legal drafting languages
    • parameterised contracts
    • analysis (e.g. "what-if" analysis, and analysis of contract (in)consistency and coverage)
    • performance (i.e. the discharging of the rights and obligations defined in the smart legal contract)
    • blockchain-enabled contract negotiation
    • engineering smart financial products
    • semantics of smart legal contracts - to enable (i) validation and (ii) computable contracts
  • Validating smart contract code
    • semantics of smart contract code
    • manual validation: validation cases
    • automatic validation: checking semantic models
  • Regulation of smart contracts, and smart contracts to enable regulation (Compliance by Design)


Smart contracts research at UCL has involved staff and students at UCL and interaction with other researchers and practitioers both in academia and industry. Here are some of the people who have been or are currently engaged with this work (it is an incomplete list that will expand):

  • Lead: Christopher D. Clack
  • Vikram Bakshi
  • Lee Braine
  • John Cummins
  • Simon Fattal
  • Varun Mathur
  • Ciaran McGonagle
  • Hirsh Pithadia
  • Gabriel Vanca

Academic funding

Our work has been supported by the following academic funding:

  • EPSRC IAA 2017-20 Innovator-in-Residence (IiR), Grant Reference EP/R511638/1, 11-March-2019 to 31-December-2019. "Blockchain-Assisted Computable Contracting - Knowledge Exchange and Initial Prototype Development"
  • UCL-CBT DLT internal project, 22-July-2019 to 22-January-2020, "Next Generation Smart Contracts - Improving Temporal Specificity"

Under Construction:


    1. Distributed Ledger Privacy: Ring Signatures, Mobius and CryptoNote, C.D.Clack and N.T.Courtois. Available at: arXiv:1902.026092019.
    2. Smart Derivatives Contracts: the ISDA Master Agreement and the automation of payments and deliveries, C.D.Clack and C.McGonagle. Available at: arXiv:1904.01461 2019.

    1. Temporal Aspects of Smart Contracts for Financial Derivatives, C. D. Clack and G. Vanca. LNCS 11247:339-355. 2018. Available at: [Springer], arXiv:1805.11677, and [this local link][BibTeX]
    2. Smart Contract Templates:legal semantics and code validation, C. D. Clack. Journal of Digital Banking 2(4)338-352 2018. Local Link: [here][BibTeX]


    3. Design Discussion on the ISDA Common Domain Model, C.D.Clack. Journal of Digital Banking 3(2):165-187. 2018


    4. A blockchain grand challenge: smart financial derivatives, C. D. Clack, Frontiers in Blockchain 1(1), 2018. Available here.

    1. Design Discussion on the ISDA Common Domain Model, C.D.Clack. 2017

      Available at: arXiv:1711.10964

    1. Smart Contract Templates: foundations, design landscape and research directions, C.D.Clack, V.A.Bakshi and L.Braine. arxiv:1608.00771.August 2016

      Local link: SCT2016.pdf
      Published at: arXiv:1608.00771

    2. Smart Contract Templates: essential requirements and design options, C.D.Clack, V.A.Bakshi and L.Braine. arxiv:1612.04496.December 2016

      Published at: arXiv:1612.04496



  • Law
  • Banking
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Blockchain
  • Linguistics
  • Ethereum
  • Other


  • smart derivatives contracts
  • tactical smart contracts
  • supply chain smart contracts (
  • trade finance