Sadie Williamson

@sadiewilliamson

Columbia University to Support Smart Contract R&D

December 19th 2018

Despite its incredible proliferation in the past two years, the blockchain is still a relatively novel technology, requiring continual development and maturation before it can attain the prominent role that many expect it to play in the digital age.

QTUM, an open sourced public blockchain initiative, is donating $400,000 to academics at the University of Columbia who are advancing blockchain research in several ways. The grant is being extended to Ronghui Gu, Columbia University’s assistant CS professor who will oversee blockchain research being conducted by post-doctorate and Ph.D. students.

As it relates to its original purpose, facilitating cryptocurrency transactions, the blockchain has made incredible cultural inroads, inspiring hundreds of token projects and facilitating the global expansion of digital currencies. At the same time, enterprise adoption is accelerating as companies including IBM and Microsoft make considerable investments in the technology.

Blockchain Expansion in University Laps

In many ways, this growth is facilitated by the work happening at universities around the world. For example, the blockchain lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the oldest and most prolific in the world, attracting a global cohort of blockchain developers. Other significant universities including Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Princeton, and Stanford have each established an academic programs dedicated to blockchain technology.

Moreover, as Bitcoin Magazine notes, “university-led blockchain research and development initiatives are on the rise, as teams of professors, blockchain developers and students work to take the industry from market speculation to mainstream application.”

The new program is researching DeepSEA, a programming language intended to bridge the gap between high-level formal reasoning and low-level systems programming in mainstream programming initiatives.

Perhaps most importantly, this research is intended to combine gains in DeepSEA with Ethereum’s prominent smart contracts, improving the security and functionality of one of the most fundamental components of the decentralized ecosystem.

As the 2016 DAO debacle demonstrates, smart contract security is mandatory for decentralized organizations to flourish. In the case of DAO, flaws in the smart contract code enabled a user steal $50 million in Ether, functionally ending one of the most ambitious and renowned crypto projects to date.

Since smart contracts are written in relatively low-level code and verification methods require high-level development, DeepSEA is intended to be the innovative next step the secures smart contracts. QTUM is putting their money behind DeepSEA, believing it will make these contracts secure and enabling the decentralized economy to expand with confidence.

Big Gains for Broad Adoption

When it comes to mainstream blockchain adoption, smart contracts are one of the most sought after components of the technology. Functioning as a digital escrow service, smart contracts enable the automatic transfer of data, payments, or other transitory mediums, and they have obvious implications today’s digital ecosystem.

QTUM’s investment in Columbia University’s research efforts is reminiscent of a broad trend in the blockchain industry. Big projects like Ripple are investing heavily in blockchain research and academics. Since the technology is so new and the number of experts are relatively scarce, investing in this research initiatives both advances blockchain’s maturity while solving problems that blockchain projects cannot fix themselves.

By targeting blockchain’s usability and smart contract adoption, QTUM’s investment could return big gains for blockchain technology in general and for their platform specifically.

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