University-Industry Engagement Week

U Wyoming’s new blockchain center aims to boost corporate engagement and drive economic development

By David Schwartz
Published: November 10th, 2020

After previously passing groundbreaking legislation to create a regulatory environment to foster blockchain application growth and diversify the economy, Wyoming’s flagship university is following up with a new Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation.

The university is making a big bet on the future of digital currency, which is gaining rapidly as a technology driving change in banking and supply chain management, among other fields. “This tech is going to fundamentally change the way businesses and consumers operate in the future, very much like the internet did,” says Steven Lupien, an adjunct professor of finance and director of the new UW center.

Only a handful of other U.S. universities have opened similar centers, including those at Arizona State University, the University of Arkansas, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, MIT, Stanford, UT Austin, and the University of Michigan.

“UW is in rarefied air,” says blockchain leader and UW alumna Caitlin Long, who served on the Wyoming Blockchain Task Force and chairs UW’s WyoHackathon. “We’re working with some of the top scientific universities in the country.”

The new center and the focus on blockchain research “is about economic diversification,” Long says. “It’s always been about jobs and bringing in outside capital to the state. Now, we’ll have employers looking for UW graduates.”

The new blockchain center is taking an interdisciplinary approach involving many of UW’s  colleges, including the College of Business, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the College of Law. It will also bring in the state’s community colleges. It will focus on fostering innovation; applied research and education; technology development; economic development and job growth; and corporate engagement.

“This new center supports three of the four pillars we’ve established to guide the university: being more computational, interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial,” said UW President Ed Seidel. “We truly appreciate the support of our external partners that has helped UW be at the vanguard of this exciting technology. The university is committed to helping drive future economic development in Wyoming, and this center has incredible potential to do so.”

One of those external partners is IOHK, a leading tech company that gifted $500,000 in Ada cryptocurrency to UW earlier this year – an amount that was matched by the state. The donation, among the largest ever cryptocurrency gifts to a public university, helped establish a blockchain lab in the College of Engineering and Applied Science that will work in cooperation with corporate partners. 

In September Wyoming approved the country’s first special purpose depository institution (SPDI), which are designed to handle digital currencies. A second SPDI application was approved last month. Gov. Mark Gordon hailed the new banking institutions, which he said “will allow those using digital assets, like cryptocurrency, to access reliable financial services, protect consumers and allow businesses a way to hold digital assets safely.”

Source: University of Wyoming

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week