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The Ripple effect: Blockchain research initiative gets 11 new university partners

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Ripple's University Blockchain Research Initiative aims to support and accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments technology.

As far as new technologies go, there’s no denying blockchain and the once-nascent world of cryptocurrencies is maturing, having witnessed tremendous growth over the past 12 months.

More new business use cases are emerging, expanding beyond the digital payments network into other industries from politics to healthcare.

By 2030, the value of blockchain in the global financial services industry alone could hit close to half a trillion dollars, IHS Markit said this week. And with so many blockchain projects expected to become commercially developed in the next few years, revenues could reach US$462 billion dollars.

Naturally, this will mean a demand for blockchain talents from a labour market sorely lacking in overall digital skills. Save for the rare few enterprising autodidacts, blockchain expertise isn’t yet commonly listed on graduate CVs. And with industry bigwigs from the likes of IBM to Facebook aggressively hiring, the talent gap in the space is real and in need of reinvigoration.

Universities, which remain the traditional source of innovation in any emerging industry, are now rushing to plug it. A report last year said 42 percent of the world’s top 50 universities – as ranked by the US News and World Report – now offer at least one course in the technology.

But getting graduates up to speed will take time and as blockchain academia remains at the development stage, the learning journey will be a continuous one. Taking the lead on developing a blockchain-focused education, Ripple, one of the most mature companies in the space, last year launched the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI).

Rolled out in June with 18 university partners, the initiative aims to support and accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments technology.

Ripple committed over US$50 million in funding to the initiative’s launch partners, as well as subject matter expertise and technical resources. Under the initiative, the schools are to determine their own research topics and priority areas of focus, while also collaborating with Ripple on research and development, creating new curriculum to meet demand in the space and stimulating ideas and dialogues among students, faculty and business leaders.

Eight months later today, the UBRI network has expanded to 29 schools, with a further 11 added to the list this week.

The 29 include:

According to Ripple, the UBRI has fostered “strong connections” between partners since launch, and created a network for advancing developments in blockchain.

The partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, for example, resulted in cross-departmental collaboration, with several schools within the university expanding relevant course offerings, funding research projects and supporting student-led activities and events. One such event is an upcoming blockchain UI/UX hackathon.

This year, activities stemming from UBRI support will go up a notch: several partners will be hosting workshops and conferences centered on topics like blockchain, cryptography, cybersecurity and regulatory issues.

“In less than a year, our initial UBRI partners hit the ground running with the launch of new research projects, events, course offerings and more. Expanding the ecosystem to a more global, diversified network of UBRI partners will only continue to enrich these projects,” said Ripple’s SVP of Global Operations Eric van Miltenburg.