At UT, Austin, for example, the Ripple grant will support the
college’s blockchain initiative at Texas McCombs, a new program that will foster
research on blockchain technology’s potential across several disciplines such
as business, engineering and law. The college will receive $2 million from
Ripple for its program.
“Academia has been lagging behind blockchain research,” said
Cesare Fracassi, a McCombs
associate professor of finance and the blockchain initiative’s director. “There’s
a strong demand to talk and teach about blockchain [technology], which is
driven by interest in cryptocurrencies.”
UT has been
active in blockchain education development issues. Its MBA-level class has been
fully subscribed, and the college will now offer an undergraduate class on the
subject. In April, the school hosted a national blockchain
conference for some 300 attendees that featured speakers from Goldman Sachs
Group Inc., Walmart Inc., Merck & Co., IBM, the Enterprise Ethereum
Alliance, the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) and Ripple,
together with academics, practitioners and students to debate and explore the
business opportunities and challenges of adopting blockchain technology.
blockchain learning, research and project-based experience is at an all-time
high among university faculty and students, and this gift will go a long way in
fulfilling that demand,” said Fracassi.
As an incubator for talent, research and development,
academia will play an important role in the future of blockchain applications.
Many of the greatest advances in technology such as the semiconductor and
internet have come from this environment; then they often find their way into
the private sector as major colleges have arms that license and finance new
Academia also serves as a testing ground for filtering out
the best and worst in a nascent technology. Graduate research often points the
way under rigorous inquiry while undergraduate courses provide basic training.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Oxford
University, for example, offer online courses on blockchain technology. IBM
is offering free
courses to students and educators through its academic initiative. Cornell
University; Duke University; Georgetown University; Princeton University;
Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University
of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are also offering
traditionally been a critical driver of technical innovation,” said Eric van
Miltenburg, senior vice president of global operations at Ripple.
Despite the enthusiasm
around blockchain courses, the technology will never be a cure-all, despite how
many new students engage with it.
“Blockchain is a promising technology, but it doesn’t mean
it can be applied to everything,” noted Fracassi. “It can be viable in some
settings, but not all.”
And the Ripple grants are not without controversy. Ripple Labs,
the company’s licensed money services business, is currently being sued by investors
class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Ripple’s token is actually an
unregistered security. Several
regulators around the world, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission, are researching whether cryptocurrencies should be treated and
regulated as securities.
(The company replied that the action is “an opportunistic suit that lacks merit.
We feel confident that the claims regarding XRP are completely unfounded both
in law and fact.”)
Other colleges slated to receive Ripple grants include the
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; MIT; Princeton University;
University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business; the University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the University of Oregon; the University of
Waterloo, Ontario; University College London; Korea University; the University
of Luxembourg; the Australian National University College of Law; Fundação
Gutulio Vargas, Brazil; the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay; the
International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad; the University of
Nicosia, Cyprus; and the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.