New funding from Input Output Global will boost cryptography projects run in the School of Informatics
Input Output Global (IOG), the creators of Cardano, the world-leading sustainable blockchain platform are partnering with the School of Informatics on a number of projects. They are funding a new ZK-Lab, supporting the launch of the blockchain industry’s first ‘decentralization index’ and last but not least, investing $4.5M to create a blockchain research hub in Edinburgh
ZK-Lab - key to create safer blockchain networks
Zero-Knowledge Proofs, and more generally Zero-Knowledge Protocols, are techniques in cryptography that make blockchains scalable, more secure, and enhance confidentiality, allowing information to be verified without revealing it to anyone but the recipient. For instance, you could prove your eligibility to work to a potential employer without needing to share detailed information on your education credentials, address and place of birth. Its development could be key in creating even more secure blockchain networks and a key component in other Web3 projects.
Zero Knowledge Protocols go beyond safeguarding personal identification by simply putting control of users’ data back in their own hands. In a post-Cambridge Analytica era, the misuse of personal data—particularly from the very tech giants who created this perfect storm—is a major concern. This is why Zero Knowledge Protocols are vital in transforming industries like supply chains, healthcare, finance, and others where the security of private information is essential.
In 2017 IOG partnered with the School of Informatics to open the Blockchain Technology Lab, which brings together academics and students to collaborate on blockchain research and development, with a focus on industry inspired problems. The launch of the ZK-Lab continues this successful collaboration.
Zero Knowledge Proof technology and its potential to protect our data online, while also providing for secure and trustworthy transactions and interactions, has fascinated me since before my graduation from a small Austrian university. It is truly amazing to see the theoretical potential of zero-knowledge being realized in practice.
The investment into the ZK-Lab will allow my team to not only further investigate the foundations of Zero-Knowledge Proofs, but also its applications for privacy-enhancing technologies in areas such as post quantum cryptography. Through this work, we will help develop blockchain technology that is more private, secure and benefits everyone.
Edinburgh Decentralization Index (EDI) will add transparency to public blockchain projects
IOG and Informatics are launching the blockchain industry’s first ‘decentralization index’: the ‘Edinburgh Decentralization Index’ (EDI) which aims to create more transparency by using a research-based methodology to produce a framework which fairly and consistently determines the ‘decentralization’ level of public blockchain projects. Protecting against high levels of centralization aligns with the core principles of blockchain systems and can safeguard against events such as when a centralized control of funds means end users can’t withdraw their investments.
The EDI will be a live tracker underpinned by a continuously calculated and reviewed methodology, with calculations being carried out by a team at the University of Edinburgh. This continual review process is designed to weather the dynamic volatility in the crypto market, while evolving to meet the evolving innovations within the blockchain industry. Through this, those interested in the crypto market can gain a greater understanding of how decentralized projects are and the risk factors associated with them.
The first step for the tracker will be the creation of research papers detailing decentralization metrics and a considered methodology for compiling them into an index, created by researchers at the University of Edinburgh. It will then operate in the same way as other industry indexes, such as the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index from the Cambridge Centre of Alternative Finance at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, which provides a live tracker of how much energy the Bitcoin blockchain is consuming.
The EDI could also promote the preservation of some of the unique capabilities of blockchain, such as transparency, censorship, resilience, and integrity, which all rely on decentralization. It could also inform users about potential risks, such as concentrating control in one place creates a single point of vulnerability, whereas decentralized systems reduce this risk by spreading out control among many blockchain participants, thereby mitigating control and information asymmetries. Despite the importance of decentralization, there is currently no universally accepted measure of decentralization across different systems. The EDI will be the first step in solving this issue.
In the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh we look for opportunities to work with industry where we can form a genuine partnership that not only translates academic research into useful outcomes for wide groups of beneficiaries, but also stimulates further research on interesting problems. Our partnership with IOG is an excellent example of this type of partnership and we are proud be launching the project today to create the Edinburgh Decentralization Index. This project represents a challenging technical problem that has the potential for significant benefit within the blockchain market.
The Input Output Global Research Hub to accelerate the development of blockchain technology
The launch of both ZK-Lab and the EDI accompanies a $4.5 million donation to Edinburgh University that will establish the Input Output Global Research Hub to fund new research projects aimed at accelerating the development of blockchain technology. The donation forms part of IOG’s extensive academic program, designed to foster continued research to set industry standards and best practices for emerging technologies.
The hub will allow university students and researchers to propose new projects for the technology, driving greater industry-wide focus on fundamental research and allowing researchers who work outside of the technology to explore its capabilities more easily. It will be led by a steering committee, featuring both IOG and university representatives, which will review project proposals and allocate funding.
Proposals submitted to the hub will include elements related to IOG products and systems, allowing the business to continue its strong focus on academic rigor and formal methods, which are applied to all of its products
Input Output is a pioneer in the blockchain space, both in terms of producing as well as supporting foundational and applied research. The long-term collaboration between IOG and the School of Informatics at Edinburgh has brought forth a lot of advances to this state of the art of technology over the past five years, from Ouroboros, a suite of provably secure blockchain protocols based on proof of stake, through to Ofelimos, a provably secure Proof-of-Useful-Work protocol, which paves the way for resolving the energy efficiency problem of proof of work based blockchains. The establishment of this new research hub is a particularly welcome development and a key milestone in continuing and scaling this work across the whole university with emphasis on interdisciplinary research.