Beyond Bitcoin - IOHK and University of Edinburgh establish Blockchain Technology Laboratory
 The establishment of a Blockchain Technology Laboratory within the university’s School of Informatics was announced today.
The lab will bring together academics and students to collaborate on blockchain research and development with a focus on industry inspired problems. The laboratory’s launch event was held at the University of Edinburgh on February 24, 2017.
“IOHK is delighted to be partnering with the University of Edinburgh, a world-leading institution in information, cognition and computing research and teaching. The partnership will develop IOHK’s core business area, cryptocurrencies and blockchain related technologies, and nurture and develop the global talent in these areas in the United Kingdom.”
The research lab at the University of Edinburgh will also serve as the headquarters for IOHK’s growing network of global university partnerships. Tokyo Institute of Technology launched a similar centre with IOHK on February 15, 2017. IOHK expects to establish further research laboratories in the United States and Greece later this year, and has plans for more the following year.
The Blockchain Technology Laboratory will be led by Prof. Aggelos Kiayias, Chair in Cyber Security and Privacy at the University of Edinburgh and Chief Scientist at IOHK. As Director of the lab, Prof. Kiayias will organise collaborations with fellow academics at the university and oversee researchers and students from undergraduate to PhD level in a broad range of topics related to blockchain systems. Research collaborations will be interdisciplinary and will include, beyond cryptography and computer science, economics, game theory, regulation and compliance, business, and law. The lab will provide a direct connection between developers and researchers, helping to get projects live faster and aims to pursue outreach projects with entrepreneurs in Edinburgh’s vibrant local technology community. Recruiting and outreach will begin immediately, and the full facility will be operational from summer 2017, located in the School of Informatics’ newly refurbished Appleton Tower.
“We are very excited regarding this collaboration on blockchain technology between the School of Informatics and IOHK. 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.”
IOHK is committed to developing industry standards and best practices that progress the field of cryptography. In contrast to other industry-university partnerships, IOHK’s collaboration with the University of Edinburgh ensures that all funded research and development will be open source and patent-free.
We are delighted to be at the forefront of UK institutions in the field of distributed ledgers and proud to have a dedicated research laboratory for industry inspired research in this important emerging area.”
“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.”
Founded in 2015 by Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood, IOHK is a technology company committed to using peer-to-peer innovations to provide financial services to the three billion people who do not have access to them. IOHK is an engineering company that builds cryptocurrencies and blockchains for academic institutions, government entities and corporations. It is also a research firm with dense academic connections in Europe, America and Asia with many employees holding PhDs in Computer Science, Mathematics or Physics. IOHK focuses on practical, peer-reviewed research to create live protocols, and the technological underpinnings to next-generation cryptocurrencies.
The School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
The School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh is a world-class research environment in central Edinburgh with a community of over 600 research, teaching and support staff and postgraduate research students. Since the first UK Research Assessment Exercise in 1986 and until the most recent (REF 2014), Informatics at Edinburgh has consistently been assessed to have more internationally excellent and world-class research than any other UK university. The university is also a member of the Alan Turing Institute (jointly with Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Warwick) thus providing further access to resources in relation to data science and is currently further expanding with the new Data Technology Institute launching in 2018.
Blockchain Technology and Distributed Ledgers
In the words of Sir Mark Walport, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, “
distributed ledger technology has the potential to transform the delivery of public and private services”. Regarding the government’s perspective, he adds: “
It has the potential to redefine the relationship between government and the citizen in terms of data sharing, transparency and trust and make a leading contribution to the government’s digital transformation plan.”
Currently more than $1 billion in venture capital investment has gone into blockchain technology companies, while major companies such as IBM, Intel and others have put in substantial resources to advance the technology.
A blockchain, initially showcased by the global digital currency Bitcoin, is typified by a publicly accessible and reliable ledger of transactions. Blockchain systems manage relations between stakeholders in the form of
“smart contracts”. A number of applications are being explored by a growing number of start-ups and established companies, in health data processing, identity management, land ownership registries, and energy management just to name a few applications.
Fully understanding this technology, in terms of its resilience to attacks, and scalability and performance, remains an important open research and development question. Coordinated efforts between academia and industry can provide advances and ensure that the maximal potential of the technology can be realised in an expedient manner.