Ripple $50 Million Grant Puts Universities to Work on Blockchain

Others, however, are focused more broadly on putting the technology to work. At the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, the engineering school and the Wharton Business School are working together through the grant to create a dual-degree program combining an MBA and a master’s in science.

Blockchain is a major point of intersection between business and engineering,” Kevin Werbach, associate professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School, said in a statement. “We plan to research a broad range of topics in in this field, ranging from privacy to smart contract design to regulatory questions to creating trust in decentralized environments.

At Princeton University in New Jersey, the project will be housed in the Center for Innovation Technology Policy, where the focus will be “the nuances of real-world applications of these technologies,” Edward W. Felten, the center’s director, said in a statement that noted the “surge of interest among Princeton students” in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

The Big Picture

These interdisciplinary connections are by design. Ripple deliberately did not stipulate the focus of research at participating universities.

“Much of the enthusiasm and activity to date around blockchain is disconnected from real use cases that result in clear benefits to businesses or civil society,” van Miltenburg said in the Ripple release. To that end, the initiative focuses on supporting “faculty and student-led projects that explore increasingly useful applications of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.”

Putting blockchain to use in the real world will require a generation of workers with a broad grasp of technology, economics, entrepreneurship, history and law.

At UNC Chapel Hill, where the grant is housed in the Institute of Private Enterprise, students will collaborate with public sector officials and startups in the Research Triangle region, according to Ghysels. At the same time, they’ll make connections that go all the way back to the 7th century B.C. in lectures touching on the history of money in fintech classes, all while preparing to organize the school’s first hackathon in December.

“At this early stage of blockchain technology, we can already see the potential impact it will have as it revolutionizes how firms create and deliver products and services,” Ghysels says.

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