Eleven top-tier academic institutions from the US and around the world have joined Ripple's University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), according to a February 7 announcement.
The UBRI was launched in June 2018 and aims to "accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments." At the time of its launch, the initiative boasted 18 partner colleges and universities. These institutions are now joined by 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, and Tsinghua University (the last of which we wrote about last month).
According to Ripple, the blockchain-based company has committed $50 million to the UBRI and plans to provide additional financial and technical resources and support as the program grows. The funds allotted for each partner will be determined by "the scope" of their projects and research related to blockchain technology.
The resources provided by UBRI are used by partners for a variety of initiatives: curriculum development, course launches and expansions, conferences, and to fund scholarships for students and faculty working in blockchain technology.
Eric van Miltenburg, SVP of Global Operations at Ripple, expressed his excitement about the program's growth:
"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."
Ripple says the program has not only cultivated a space for universities to develop their own unique classes and projects, but has also developed a "global network for advancing and accelerating the field." Ripple uses its partnership with University of California, Berkeley as an example of this. As a result of its partnership with UBRI, UC Berkeley was able to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration among the university's departments and support student-led activities like the blockchain UI/UX hackathon.
Berkeley is not the only university that has apparently benefited from the UBRI. In November 2018, Ripple spoke with Cesare Fracassi about UBRI's impact at University of Texas Austin, where Fracassi serves as director of this initiative at UT Austin's Center for Analytics and Transformational Technologies.
Fracassi said the funds provided by UBRI allowed him to increase the number of students taking blockchain-related classes and also expand the scope of these classes. In Fall 2018, the university was able to offer blockchain-focused classes to "MBA, graduate level business analytics and computer science, and undergrad students." The funds will also provide for further program development:
"UBRI funds will allow for a new fintech-focused track, the addition of more faculty to focus on the topic, and more professional development and subject matter expertise among existing faculty. All of this is geared to funding three UBRI program goals: support for research, support for teaching, and outreach to the community in Austin and Texas more broadly."
UBRI is one of the largest coalitions of universities involved in blockchain research and development, but many universities outside the UBRI are interested in this area of study. In August 2018, the University of Arkansas announced the launch of its Blockchain Center of Excellence, which is intended to educate students on the "importance of blockchain technology in the future of business and digital security." In July 2018, IBM partnered with Columbia University to develop the Columbia-IBM Center for Blockchain and Data Transparency.