The blockchain industry is making significant strides in terms of innovation and technological advancements. Much of this progress can be attributed to academia helping to drive the industry forward by turning its attention toward new curriculum, research and technical problem solving, knowledge sharing and convening.
By partnering with universities globally, Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) is addressing the demand for technological solutions and talent to solve key challenges in the global financial ecosystem. Since launching the program two years ago, the initiative has seen remarkable results, with more than 180 research projects and 95 new or modified courses across 15 countries to date.
Today, the program continues to grow as Ripple welcomes ETH Zurich, University of Zurich, Ryerson University and Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) to the UBRI network. The global initiative now supports 37 university partners to further accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency, fintech and digital payments.
The University of Zurich’s Fintech Innovation Lab is launching The Center for Sustainable Digital Finance—the world’s first interdisciplinary Research Center in this field—to conduct digitisation research in the financial services together with regulators, firms, financial institutions, consumers and beyond, through its UBRI partnership. “What we’re doing at the University of Zurich isn’t just special, it’s the future,” says Thomas Puschmann, Director of the Swiss Fintech Innovation Lab at University of Zurich.
ETH Zurich, meanwhile, is researching information security and cryptography, as well as new concepts and systems for payments. “As we prepare to embark on a new journey, UBRI’s support will be important to unlock the power and potential for financial technology in Switzerland and beyond,” says Srdjan Čapkun, Professor for Systems Security at ETH Zurich.
UBRI also provides technical support for the university’s efforts to integrate secure, multi-party computation techniques into blockchain protocols and model smart contracts. Many of these activities take place in collaboration with the Zurich Information Security & Privacy Center (ZISC). Both Zurich-based universities are instrumental in further advancing fintech Switzerland, where regulatory bodies have openly welcomed the use and innovation of digital assets.
The Cybersecurity Research Lab (CRL) at Ryerson University in Canada is working on Mosaïque, a system using data-driven distributed logic for decentralized networks. “We see our partnership with UBRI as an opportunity to leverage Ripple’s expertise in blockchain innovation to build a token-based payment rail for Mosaïque,” says Dr Atefeh Mashatan, Director of the CRL. The payment option will work in conjunction with Mosaïque’s facilities for self-sovereign identity, decentralized workflows and process automation. The CRL is committed to building internal capacity in blockchain and fintech by establishing a Ripple Blockchain Collaboratory.
Mexico’s blockchain sector has grown 90% since 2018, with traditional firms turning to blockchain solutions in a bid to reduce inefficiencies—case in point, more than 90% of adults in Mexico use cash only, and access to financial services is scarce and relatively expensive. Through this partnership with UBRI, ITAM will create new courses so students are better prepared for Mexico’s astronomical demand for fintech and blockchain talent. Gustavo Salaiz, fintech professor at ITAM, says, “We want to ensure students have the adequate mix of skills for a world where data and transactions take place on distributed ledgers, and Ripple’s UBRI will help us to prepare our students for the financial service’s digital future.”
UBRI partners are engaging in more rigorous blockchain research, collaborating across departments and building new use cases for financial technology—at a time when the world is seeing increasing demand for digital financial solutions. Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, UBRI has enabled the likes of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), University College London (UCL) and others to deepen research into how blockchain can address today’s socio-economic challenges across healthcare, financial markets and payments—to name a few.
For example, University of Michigan Professor and former senior advisor to both the U.S. Department of Treasury and the White House, Adrienne Harris, has highlighted the challenges faced by U.S. citizens experiencing delays in receiving IRS stimulus payments and how leveraging blockchain and digital payments can expedite these urgent payments.
To keep up with Ripple’s UBRI and its partners, tune into the just-launched All About Blockchain podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.