Initiatives linking foundations and universities broaden the base for cryptocurrency development.
Major cryptocurrency companies and foundations are partnering with educational institutions to further democratize technology development and recruit new talent. Blockchain pioneers see it as a way to pass the baton to the next generation of innovators.
For example, the Ripple University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) boasts partnerships with over 30 leading universities in the world, and the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) now works directly with academic programs around the world.
“We started getting serious about academia about a year ago,” said Justin Rice, vice president of ecosystem development at SDF.
Rice said SDF now has sufficient staff to carry out such a program, which she believes is in line with the open source platform’s core mission of expanding equitable access to the world’s financial infrastructure.
“It’s not just about putting the end products, digital assets, into the hands of end users, but also empowering the people who create those products,” he said. “In many ways, this is the most important layer of the entire pie that we can and should focus on – builders, creators, innovators, because they will take these core networks that are digitally valuable and transform them into something meaningful.”
The mandate to improve equitable access extends to the development of the technology itself. To this end, SDF has partnerships with research programs around the world, including Blockchain at Berkeley, University College London’s Center for Blockchain Technology, the National University of FinTech Laboratory of Singapore and the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. Top three places in the top 7 of CoinDesk universities in the new ranking of the best universities by blockchain, which covers 230 schools around the world.
The Stellar Development Foundation also provides a range of resources to students outside of these institutional partnerships, including grants and guest lectures, as well as hackathon events developed in partnership with on-campus blockchain clubs.
“We also help add blockchain and sometimes Stellar-specific content to various curricula,” says Rice. “A lot of this is about creating resources, some of it is providing technical assistance or mentoring people in our organization, and some of it is actually creating hackathons that reward successful projects.”
Such partnerships are becoming more popular now as the generation of blockchain pioneers become more confident in the longevity of the technology.
“The people who are working on blockchain today are the first generation,” he says. “There has been enough advancement, adoption and mainstream understanding of the blockchain when it seems like it’s here for a long time, so let’s start thinking about the next generation.”
These partnerships help academic institutions stay on top of cutting-edge technology.
“Having students trained in blockchain technology will inevitably lead to more jobs in Wyoming for our graduates,” said Dr. James Caldwell, co-director of the University of Wyoming’s Blockchain Advanced Technology Laboratory (WABL).
The lab was launched in early 2020 following a $ 500,000 donation from IOHK, the organization behind Cardano and the ADA cryptocurrency. This was also accompanied by government funding. Blockchain Lab currently supports six graduate students and an equal number of research students. WABL has minted 205 blocks as part of the Cardano betting pool.
“We have students who are learning the latest blockchain technologies and working on projects at IOHK,” Caldwell said. “Thanks to the efforts of the center, we only had 13 mining machines and we are opening a mining club and we hope to be able to involve students in keeping these machines working properly.”
Caldwell, who has been teaching at the University of Wyoming for 23 years, says the state has long struggled to provide tech jobs for its graduates, as most employers choose neighboring Colorado when opening offices in the region. The multitude of legislative changes favoring blockchain, combined with the efforts of WABL, nevertheless help to establish the state as the “crypto capital of America.”
“He provides technical expertise on the blockchain and, in particular, the Cardano blockchain – in Wyoming,” he says. “Wyoming is difficult to sell, but now with this legislation, we have more tech companies interested in relocating to the state than ever before.”
Caldwell adds that these recent successes are a direct result of both legislative changes and the partnership with IOHK, and he believes other states and institutions will soon be looking to establish similar partnerships. “Oh my gosh, I’m sure of that,” he says.
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