Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative nurtures engagement in students

3 views 7:05 am 0 Comments December 19, 2023

Ripple has partnered with leading universities across Europe for its University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) program to catalyse academic research in blockchain development and encourage a new generation to engage in crypto innovation.

UBRI has recently partnered with Trinity College Dublin, EPITA, IE Madrid, University of Trento, adding to their 10 university partners in Europe to further blockchain study and education. Since 2018 the initiative has committed $11 million to its academic partners, aiming to make Europe the centre of blockchain advancement. The partnerships will focus on new developments in the fintech and crypto field, such as decentralised networks, quantum research, and blockchain smart contract verification.

Finextra spoke with senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Ripple, Eric van Miltenburg, on how educated students with blockchain and Web 3.0 knowledge will lead to success in the future.

According to van Miltenburg, students involved in the UBRI courses will have the opportunity to gain real-world experience through practical use cases, engaging with exciting new initiatives in labs and accelerators backed by the grant.

“One of our early European partners was the University of Oxford, where UBRI supports professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Pinar Ozcan, and her team at the Oxford Future of Finance and Technology Initiative. Oxford used UBRI funds for a fellowship to hire a Postdoc to tackle the ambiguity surrounding CBDCs, using an ecosystem lens in a university research initiative.

“Our partners at the University of Zurich in Switzerland offered a Masters course in blockchain, designed to give students an overview of the technology from a technical, economic, business and legal perspective. In the UBRI-developed course, students were encouraged to create their own real-world blockchain start-up companies.”

Ripple has supported the integration of over 500 university-level courses globally using UBRI grants, van Multenburg details, which range from sustainable finance, blockchain engineering, decentralised systems, financial innovations, fintech, insurtech, cryptocurrency and smart contracts, artificial intelligence, digital finance, blockchain technology, and more. The programme enrolled 97 students in 2022 and initiated over 1000 academic blockchain research projects and awarded 739 scholarships and fellowships.

He calls the incoming generation “game changers”, highlighting that they will drive the fintech workforce in the future and be the lead policymakers, therefore educating and engaging them is essential. He states that collaboration is a key aspect of blockchain, and nurturing research at an academic level allows room for development, innovation, and creativity among excited newcomers to the industry who are looking to generate change.

“Universities are hubs of intellectual curiosity and exploration, making them ideal places for pushing the boundaries of blockchain technology. By providing funding and resources through our UBRI programme we’re encouraging the development of solutions that will not only benefit financial services but support use-cases to improve other areas of society, like property or healthcare.”

Describing the work they will be embarking on in the new university partnerships, van Miltenburg outlines that at Trinity the grant will support an ADAPT Centre in the School of Computer Science and Statistics, fund Laboratoire de Recherche et Développement de l’EPITA in France that will study smart contracts, back the School of Technology and Science at IE University Madrid, and support the Laboratory of Industrial Mathematics and Cryptography at the University of Trento that will focus on quantum research.

“Crypto and blockchain technology will underpin our future global financial systems. This isn’t a hype cycle or a temporary phenomenon. As was this case with transformational technologies like semiconductors, the internet and machine learning, academic institutions are the traditional backbone of innovation and so in encouraging blockchain research and development within universities, we can accelerate the technical development and use cases of this technology.”

Illustrating the success of the initiative, van Miltenburg details how UBRI’s support to Carnegie Mellon University allowed student Eugene Leventhal to excel from president of the university’s Blockchain Group to project manager for CMU CyLab and now he continues to develop the blockchain community through a leading position on the Metagovernance Project to build digital self-governance.

Other projects boosted by the programme include the University of Zurich’s Green Fintech project that created a Sustainable Fintech Map for public and private entities to reference as needed, and led to the formation of the Green Fintech Network in Switzerland. At UCL, researchers are establishing a “Digital Built Environment” to create a structure in which blockchain will be able to improve urban planning, architecture, energy and more.

He adds that in 2024, Ripple partners at the University of Nicosia will launch a ‘Cyprus Tech Odyssey: XRPL Hackathon 2024’ in January.