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The University of Edinburgh Launches Blockchain Research Lab with IOHK

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IOHK, headed by one of the co-founder’s of Ethereum, are collaborating with The University of Edinburgh to launch one of several research hubs to create an engine for ground-breaking blockchain technology exploration to take place alongside the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The plan is that the University of Edinburgh will open a research lab in the institution’s School of Informatics, expected to be fully operational by summer 2017, concentrating on blockchain technology while the Tokyo Institute of Technology will be focused on cryptocurrency developments. 

Investments up to $1 billion into the two facilities will be carried out by IOHK, a Hong Kong-based Research and Development Company as the co-founder of Ethereum and CEO of IOHK, Charles Hoskinson, clarified.

Blockchain technology has been one of the most trending topics across both the banking and financial industries. Why would it not be the hottest topic? According to an analysis conducted by Accenture and operations benchmarking company McLagan, a saving of $12 billion per annum could be possible for the largest banks when considering back office expenditures. But it is not just banking, but also healthcare and energy are two other industries that can enjoy efficiency gains from distributed ledger technology.

The foundations of the distributed ledger technology were initially formed by the digital currency bitcoin, which began with the creation of shared database and instituted the direct peer-to-peer interactions without the need for intermediaries. Consequently, blockchain technology developments are very new. Hoskinson explained to BI, “Early on when we started the company (IOHK), originally we were just going to be an engineering consultancy firm. But we realized that our technology was very young, and the science of the technology wasn’t settled. As a consequence, we felt like we would be building on quicksand unless we brought in some expertise early on.”

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To move forward, IOHK decided to participate in the research and development of this relatively young technology:

“After having discussions, they (the experts) said, actually we don’t have answers to a lot of these fundamental questions. We said, ‘how do we get those answers?’ and they said, ‘we need to write some papers, we need to do some basic research.’ Over time we started moving into the university research space.”

Both research hubs will study areas such as cryptography, smart contracts, and how to develop updated versions of cryptocurrency systems. Teams of 15 people will be working on the issues, on the condition that IOHK arrange staff on the ground at each facility to help research.

Hoskin explains, “This is commonly not done in the startup setting. Usually, this is something you do if you’re a company like Microsoft — Microsoft has research campuses at many major universities.”

Professor Aggelos Kiayias, Chair in Cyber Security and privacy at the University of Edinburgh and Chief Scientist at IOHK, will be leading the research at the Edinburgh lab. With this newly-formed partnership, Professor Kiayias stated the University of Edinburgh’s facility would be at the ‘forefront of innovation in blockchain systems.’:

“Distributed ledgers is an upcoming disruptive technology that can scale information services to a global level. The academic and industry connection forged by this collaboration puts the Blockchain Technology Lab at Edinburgh at the forefront of innovation in blockchain systems.”

The amazing thing about the research in the two facilities is that anybody and everybody can gain access to it as it will open-source, thereby patents will not be awarded. Collaborations will be organized by the Director, Prof. Kiayias, who will oversee researchers and students, ranging from undergraduate to Ph.D. level. What is also truly exciting is the multi-disciplinary aspect, with research combining fields such as business, economics, game theory, law, and regulation and compliance.

Although IOHK has committed to fund both the research labs for two years, Hoskinson anticipates the expansion of the project to more universities around the world. For example, 2017 will see some more research centers pop up in Greece and the US, with the establishment of additional laboratories in 2018.

IOHK was created by Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood in 2015, constructing cryptocurrencies and blockchains for academic institutions, government bodies, and cooperations. Jeremy Wood, IOHK Co-Founder stated: “IOHK’s partnership with the University of Edinburgh provides unique opportunities for current students to become the next generation of blockchain and cryptography leaders. As a headquarters for IOHK’s international academic research community, we expect to see the university facilitate innovative projects that drive how businesses and governments approach blockchain and cryptocurrencies.