Crypto payments company Ripple announced a new $50 million fund to finance university research into blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies. Ripple has teamed up with 17 universities around the world for the new project, including MIT, University College London, Princeton, and the Australian National University. Schools involved in the project will be able to apply to Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative fund for cash. Some of the $50 million has already been allocated.
Eric van Miltenburg, SVP of Global Operations at Ripple, said in a statement: “Academia has traditionally been a critical driver of technical innovation. “The University Blockchain Research Initiative is an acknowledgement of the vital importance of the unique role universities will play in advancing our understanding and application of cryptography and blockchain technology. It also speaks to the reality that university graduates will fuel a continually evolving and maturing financial marketplace and workforce.”
Ripple is not the first to collaborate with the university sector. Charles Hoskinson, who helped develop ethereum, last year committed to investing $1 million in setting up new blockchain labs at the University of Edinburgh and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Both instances highlight the fact that the cryptocurrency space remains an early-stage, development-led sector, despite large numbers of businesses trying to build commercial products using the technology and the huge amounts of capital these companies have attracted.
Blockchain tech, which was first popularized as the underpinnings of bitcoin, still faces issues around processing power, privacy, and energy usage, among others. Developers around the world are looking at these and other issues in a bid to improve the nascent technology. Van Miltenburg said in a statement: “Much of the enthusiasm and activity to date around blockchain is disconnected from real use cases that result in clear benefits to businesses or civil society.
“While Ripple won’t dictate research parameters, we are excited to play a role in helping to support faculty and student-led projects that explore increasingly useful applications of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.” Ripple is closely linked to the cryptocurrency XRP, sometimes also dubbed Ripple, and owns 60% of the currency. The sale of XRP is used to generate the money for the new university fund.
Ripple initially wanted businesses to use XRP to send and receive global payments but struggled with adoption. It has since pivoted to offering a blockchain-based payments product and pitching XRP for use as a liquidity solution.