The demand for organizations to adopt blockchain technology is rapidly increasing. Recent findings from market research and consulting firm Custom Market Insights have found The global blockchain technology market size was estimated at $4.8 billion in 2021, however this amount is expected to reach $69 billion by 2030. Although it is worth noting that it has become of paramount importance to the industry enabling accurate research in the development of the blockchain sector. blockchain.
Tim Harrison, Vice President of Community and Ecosystem at Input Output Global (IOG) – the developer arm behind Cardano blockchain – told Cointelegraph that over the past year, the blockchain ecosystem has seen many risks from projects that have taken “quick takeoffs and things are breaking.”
“Not only do these companies exercise these risks themselves, but errors and failures can also negatively impact end consumers,” he said. As such, Harrison believes that peer-reviewed research can help prevent such situations while also resolving issues that linger from previous iterations of blockchain development.
Companies fund research centers led by universities
In order to ensure thorough research of blockchain projects going forward, Harrison noted that IOG recently funded a $4.5 million Blockchain Research Center at Stanford University. According to Harrison, the center’s goal is to enrich the body of scientific knowledge within the blockchain and distributed ledger industry with an increased focus on basic research.
Despite the announcement of the Blockchain Research Center at Stanford on August 29, 2022, Aggelos Kiayias, chief scientist at IOG and a professor at the University of Edinburgh, told Cointelegraph that he believes the center will collectively help the industry solve current challenges.
For example, Kiayias notes that IOG previously donated $500,000 to fund research into blockchain scalability with Stanford University. This was an important initiative, as blockchain scalability remains one of the biggest issues holding back industry adoption. However, Kiayas noted that the new Blockchain Research Center at Stanford will take this a step further because the projects being funded will come from researchers across a range of disciplines and backgrounds.
Kiayias added that research centers linked to universities will likely add more value than typical blockchain-focused courses. He noted that “the Stanford Research Center will allow researchers to investigate specifically the kinds of topics they are interested in, giving them more freedom than taking a regular class.” While many universities currently offer blockchain courses within their curricula, industry-funded research centers may be the next step for universities aiming to advance the industry.
For example, Dawn Song, founder of Oasis Labs and a professor at UC Berkeley, told Cointelegraph that the Oasis protocol, along with a number of other blockchain companies, has provided funding for the Berkeley Center for Responsible and Decentralized Intelligence (RDI). According to Song, RDI was founded about one year ago as a multidisciplinary, campus-wide initiative focused on advancing decentralized science, technology, and education.
Song explained that RDI’s research focuses on areas including blockchain scalability, security, privacy, and usability, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). For example, Song noted that looking for proofs of lack of knowledge is critical to ensuring the scalability and privacy of blockchain projects.
In light of this, she noted, RDI researchers have begun work on a project called Orion, a new argument system for zero-knowledge. Song also mentioned that RDI researchers are developing a new type of key maintenance mechanism that will ensure greater usability. The project is known as the “Multi-Factor Key Derivation Function” and it expands based on password-based key derivation functions with the support of other common authentication factors.
Although innovative, Song added that RDI’s research is unique in the sense that the center is interdisciplinary:
“RDI has faculty from Berkeley’s Department of Computer Science, Finance and Economics and Law School. RDI’s research covers many different disciplines that are more in-depth than blockchain courses. We focus on research, education, and entrepreneurship, which can then help develop courses to train A new generation of students are entering the industry.”
In addition to physical research facilities at universities such as Stanford and Berkeley, virtual research centers are being set up. For example, Klaytn, the first layer blockchain in Asia, recently committed $20 million to fund a virtual research institute to support industry growth. Known as the Blockchain Research Center (BRC), the program will be run by a global consortium led by researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Sangmin Seo, representative director of the Clayton Foundation, told Cointelegraph that researchers from KAIST and NUS will also work closely with an international team of principal researchers from six other universities, such as UC Berkeley, Princeton University, and Georgia Institute of Technology. “With BRC operating in an open source manner, other researchers outside of these universities will be able to participate in ongoing research projects or submit their own proposals,” he noted.
Seo shared that BRC’s research will cover seven pillars focusing on topics such as consensus, privacy, smart communications, decentralized finance (DeFi), and the Metaverse. He added that although BRC is virtual, the program will regularly conduct community outreach efforts such as hosting conferences and workshops.
In addition, the Alogrand Foundation, which is responsible for maintaining the Algorand blockchain ecosystem, has committed $50 million to fund a virtual research program. The Algorand Centers of Excellence (ACE) program started in August 2022 and has a strong focus on developing real-world blockchain solutions, along with social impact and sustainability projects.
Hugo Krausek, Principal Investigator at the Algorand Foundation and Head of the ACE Program, told Cointelegraph that research teams are located around the world to ensure the focus is on local communities. He added that ACE researchers are addressing a number of issues associated with cryptography as this is the backbone of blockchain security:
“We also analyze errors in smart contracts as errors in these can lead to huge losses of money and trust.”
The importance of university-led blockchain research centers
While it is worth noting that blockchain projects support the development of university-led research programmes, the scope of these initiatives extends well beyond marketing methods or the research of a company’s own project. Highlighting this, Krausek explained that while the Algorand Foundation is committed to developing its own ecosystem, emerging research centers like ACE are focused on developing the entire blockchain industry:
“It is not just about teaching developers to work on our own projects, but about looking for multiple projects that can help advance the blockchain sector. Although we compete with each other, collaborating with others is beneficial to the maturity and development of the space.”
Echoing this, Harrison stated that while there is a lot of competition in the blockchain space, healthy competition is a vital part of any growing industry. “Especially in its early days, every player also needs to play their part in increasing the space as a whole,” he noted.
In fact, collaboration seems to be key when it comes to these research centers. For example, Song mentioned that RDI at Berkeley will work closely with the Stanford Blockchain Research Center. Krausek added that there is an ACE research center at Yale collaborating with Columbia University and City College of New York.
Another important point to note is that although it is innovative for universities to offer blockchain courses as part of their curricula, research centers are going a step further. Stephen Lubin, director of the Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation at the University of Wyoming, told Cointelegraph that university research centers offer unique hands-on learning opportunities. He said:
“These programs allow students to roll up their sleeves, develop and deploy blockchain projects and digital assets in a real environment. Universities also play a leading role in developing standards and governance that are difficult for the industry to create due to competitive pressures.”
For example, Lubin mentioned that the University of Wyoming’s Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation — which was founded in 2019 and focuses on developing educational programs and applied projects across campus — is working on a smart contract research group to develop standards, governance, and interoperability. To allow smart contracts to be deployed more effectively.
While university-led blockchain research centers may be the next logical step in developing the blockchain ecosystem, more work needs to be done to ensure that such programs are created.
“Since Web3 is still in its infancy, one research center alone is unable to solve all the challenges that lie ahead. Seo noted that more research centers are needed to collectively solve such challenges. Research centers such as Klaytn’s BRC are Multi-year projects that take time and effort to develop.
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