Ripple, one of the most mature companies in the blockchain space, is currently helping lead development for blockchain-focused academia and research.
The blockchain based global settlements network launched its University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) in June of last year to accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in the blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments space. Ripple has committed over $50 million in funding, subject matter expertise and technical resources to UBRI’s first wave of university partners, which includes 17 prestigious institutions from around the world.
Announced today, Ripple has added 11 new universities to the UBRI program. The company is now supporting a total of 29 partners to accelerate academic research.
The new institutions include:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Cornell University
- Duke University
- Georgetown University
- University of Kansas
- University of Michigan
- Morgan State University
- National University of Singapore
- Northeastern University
- University of Sao Paulo
- Institute for Fintech Research, Tsinghua University
These programs, driven by the university partners, are poised to prepare the next generation of engineers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and other professionals to apply these technologies in practice. This should increase positive awareness of the transformative impact that blockchain technology will have across all industries, while giving back to the community as part of an ongoing philanthropic effort.
We launched UBRI back in June of 2018 to provide support for 17 different universities around the world to help progress their study of blockchain technology, cryptography, digital assets and fintech. Blockchain is an incredibly transformational technology and helping advance the best minds in the world, who are already showing interest in this field, is sure to benefit the entire ecosystem. We’ve added 11 new universities this time around and now have 29 schools involved with the program. Expanding the ecosystem to a more global, diversified network of UBRI partners will only continue to enrich these projects,” said Eric van Miltenburg, SVP of Global Operations at Ripple.
Funding from Ripple’s UBRI program is intended to support a variety of efforts, across different educational sectors spanning from law, finance, engineering, business and other fields. The support aims to help universities develop curricula, expand or launch courses, host conferences and award scholarships to faculty and students pursuing work in blockchain, cryptocurrency, digital payments and related topics.
We are placing full faith in these universities, knowing that the students and faculty are the most capable individuals in the field. Therefore, it’s under their discretion to deploy the funds in ways they see fit to help advance the study of blockchain research. There are also a variety of factors that go into choosing which schools we partner with. We are working with institutions that have already shown an interest and commitment to blockchain. We want to help accelerate what is already a spark by turning that into a flame to help these schools move forward,” explained Miltenburg.
Fostering Innovation Through Academia
While Ripple’s UBRI program has only been up and running for less than a year, all of the partner institutions are already showing signs of progress, demonstrating Ripple’s goal to foster innovation in the broad blockchain space.
For example, the partnership with the University of California, Berkeley has resulted in cross-departmental collaboration, as several schools within the university expanded relevant course-offerings, funded research projects and supported student-led activities and events, including an upcoming blockchain UI/UX hackathon.
According to Laura Tyson, Faculty Director of the Institute for Business and Social Impact at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley, the university has awarded seven faculty research grants and eight research proposals from students through the UBRI program funding.
We are excited by the momentum that the Ripple UBRI Partnership has fostered at Berkeley Haas and throughout U.C. Berkeley in the development of blockchain, digital payments and cryptocurrency-related research and innovation, said Tyson. In December, we awarded the first round of Ripple-funded faculty and student blockchain, digital payments and cryptocurrency-focused research grants. Also, we are sponsoring numerous student-led activities this semester, including partnering with Blockchain at Berkeley to host a blockchain/fintech industry Spring speaker series at Haas.”
The University of Texas at Austin is another institution that is part of Ripple’s UBRI program. According to Professor Cesare Fracassi who leads the UBRI presence at University of Texas at Austin and serves as the director of the university’s blockchain initiative, the funding from Ripple has allowed U.T. Austin to initiate three important objectives.
First, UBRI has allowed us to provide funding to faculty and Ph.D. students that are interested in researching blockchain technology. Secondly, it has let us increase our curriculum on blockchain, enabling students to learn more through specific classes. Finally, the funding has allowed us to conduct important research that lets us act as a connector for companies, journalists and others outside of the university that are interested in this sector. We are making progress in each of these objectives and have held several events to highlight the research done by our faculty on blockchain. Additionally, we have put out a call for proposals for people who need funding for blockchain-related research and have developed three classes focused entirely on this sector from both a technical and business perspective,” said Professor Fracassi.
From a student perspective, the UBRI program has helped greatly in terms of conducting professional research in this space.
“The donation provided through UBRI has allowed students at U.T. Austin to learn about blockchain technology at an accelerating rate. By funding initiatives such as the Texas Blockchain undergraduate group, graduate courses, and on-campus validators, I believe U.T. is quickly becoming a powerhouse in the blockchain space,” said Alan Orwick, a computer science student at U.T. Austin who also serves as the president of Texas Blockchain.
According to Miltenburg of Ripple, students in particular have benefited from this program, as the funding from UBRI has helped accelerate their research.
“One of the common themes across all the schools we’ve spoken with is that the demand coming from students far outweigh the ability for the faculty administration to meet that demand. There is no surprise that both the students and faculty at these schools are very excited about UBRI.”
At Duke University and Georgetown University, UBRI will support expanding curriculum and teaching, research and technical projects and collaboration across disciplines. Internationally, the University of Sao Paulo is receiving funding for a blockchain innovation program, which will serve as an interdisciplinary forum across its schools of engineering, law, mathematics and economics and business administration.
A Powerful Network Effect
In addition to the progress being made on campuses throughout the world, a powerful network effect has been created through UBRI that is not only spanning across specific college campuses, but also within each partner institution.
There is really a growing interest in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payment systems among the best students and faculty in the world. I think that this will continue to flourish, as there is a real interest in this broad space and the application of this technology to solve major social challenges. Moreover, the students and faculty conducting work in this area are creating a powerful network effect in terms of learning and research, both on the Berkeley campus and across the campuses that Ripple has funded. For example, people are now able to identify others working on something similar to what they are researching, which they might not have known otherwise. There is real opportunity here to foster innovation and forward leading research through this network effect,” explained Tyson from U.C. Berkeley.
Tyson believes the real question to consider now is how to ensure that this research continues. Fortunately, Ripple’s UBRI program appears to be the answer.
An individual company can only do so much. Yet the idea of taking funding and supporting a whole research network across universities spanning over five continents is a way to foster development that could be of great interest not only to Ripple, but also to the entire sector and the world, said Tyson. I really believe in Ripple’s message of advancing research to foster innovation for this very important set of new technologies. What a great mission.”