Morgan State Partners With Crypto Company Ripple To Boost Blockchain Research

Written by Dana Sanchez
Nnenna Johnson at Morgan State Homecoming 2018 | Image: Anita Sanikop

THistorically Black Baltimore university Morgan State has received funding to join a multi-university program aimed at accelerating academic research into blockchain and cryptocurrency.

The program, funded by Silicon Valley-based fintech firm Ripple, is
known as University Blockchain Research Initiative.

Morgan State joins 28 other universities that are also part of the blockchain research initiative including Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon and Duke universities.

San Francisco-based tech firm Ripple allows users to send money globally using blockchain technology. It uses the cryptocurrency XRP, considered a rival to Bitcoin and the second largest coin by market capitalization as of September 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Morgan State received an undisclosed amount of funding from Ripple to underwrite a five-year academic partnership with Ripple on the
University Blockchain Research Initiative, Baltimore Business Journal reported. Overall, Ripple has committed at least $50 million to the program.

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The program allows Ripple to partner with universities to support academic research, development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments. Ripple provides these universities with financial and technical resources. It also collaborates with faculty and students on research and technical projects.

Morgan State is seeing an increase in jobs that require blockchain and fintech knowledge, said Ali Emdad, associate dean and professor of information science in the School of Business and Management, according to Technically Media.

The university has created its own Center for the Study of Blockchain and FinTech Innovation. Ten faculty members are involved in the center’s work.

While Bitcoin is most associated with blockchain, Emdad said the university is pushing for different use cases that explore why blockchain can be useful, whether it’s needed in a specific setting and the potential benefits.

“We have to get our students ready for all of this,” Emdad said.

The Center has already held events on campus to engage the university community and public around blockchain. During the Fall 2018 semester, undergraduate students explored use cases for blockchain. Ripple had “a presence” at the class’ final presentations.

“Blockchain has the potential to be a disruptor in many businesses and industries, and universities must be flexible to adapt to the changing environment,” Emdad said. “Based on this premise, we plan to expand our campus-wide engagement in research and curriculum development in blockchain, cryptoeconomics and fintech innovation.”