IOHK, the development company behind Cardano, has named a DeFi lending protocol as one of its so-called Project Catalyst ideas — sending a strong message that decentralized finance applications could be coming to the project's blockchain. 

In a series of Twitter posts, IOHK said Tuesday that several promising ideas tied to Project Catalyst will be revealed in the coming days. Project Catalyst is a public fund that is intended to bring “research, social experiments and community consent to establish an open, democratic culture within the Cardano community.”

The first Project Catalyst candidate to be announced is Liqwid, a DeFi lending market that allows participants to earn interest on deposits and borrow assets directly on the Cardano blockchain.

In an October Medium post, Liqwid architect Dewayne Cameron described his protocol as “an open source automated liquidity protocol for lending.”

He explained:

“(1) Liqwid Finance is not a bank ; it’s open source financial infrastructure (2) Liqwid does not have a “target region/user” ; Liqwid’s functional implementation is an open source lending protocol on a distributed decentralized cloud, by design this means global.”

The market for decentralized finance has seen a groundswell of activity in the last six months. At the time of writing, the total value locked in DeFi projects was $14.6 billion spread across lending, derivatives, asset, payments and DEX markets. 

“Our team is competing in the Cardano Project Catalyst grant rounds to receive our seed-funding which will finance our core developers plus our dev partners Appinventiv and Tweag,” Cameron tells Cointelegraph. 

He adds:

 “[...] we are excited to show the DeFi space what a no-VC, community-led DAO project on Cardano can deliver in comparison to the VC-backed Ethereum DeFi protocols we see today.”

Liqwid kicks off its development phase next week, with testing scheduled for the end of Q1 2021. Although the official launch is somewhat dependent on the deployment of Cardano smart contracts, Cameron says he's optimistic that Liqwid's roadmap aligns with IOHK's planned rollout of smart contract functionality. 

The official Liqwid launch on Cardano mainnet is of course somewhat dependent on the official launch of smart contracts at Cardano’s Goguen go-live but with the 1st Goguen protocol update coming this week, our team is optimistic our v1. development roadmap aligns well with IOHK’s development roadmap for introducing complete smart contract functionality on-chain (mid-late Q1 2021).

In addition to Liqwid, IOHK on Tuesday named Maybe Workshop — a project-based learning resource — as another Project Catalyst candidate. The best ideas, as selected by Cardano community members, will receive up to $250,000 worth of ADA to further develop their projects.

IOHK says millions of dollars worth of ADA will be released in 2021 as part of future funding rounds — “from content to community resources, Dapps to Defi.”