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The graphical image shows a giant computer laptop screen with a purple keyboard and one man standing and facing the computer laptop and another man sitting down with his tiny laptop on top of the big laptop. The letter "B" with lines through it to look like the money symbol sits in the very center of the giant laptop. The image is meant to represent digital currency.Eric Ghysels, Edward Bernstein Distinguished Professor of Economics in the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of finance at Kenan-Flagler Business School, will co-lead a new research initiative to support academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments.

Kenan-Flagler Business School is part of a $50 million initiative by Ripple called the Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) which will support 17 universities around the world, including MIT, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, the business schools at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Texas at Austin, Fundação Getulio Vargas (UNC Kenan-Flagler’s partner in the Global OneMBA Program) and universities in the Netherlands, Australia, India, Korea, Luxembourg, U.K. and Canada.

Each university will determine its own research topics and areas of focus. In addition to providing financial resources, Ripple also will collaborate with university partners by providing subject matter expertise and technical resources as needed. UNC Kenan-Flagler will use the support for curriculum development, research and project-based work in blockchain and distributed systems, cryptocurrency and distributed payments, innovation in banking and financial technology, entrepreneurship related topics, and the related implications for economics and law.

“ Academia has traditionally been a critical driver of technical innovation. The University Blockchain Research Initiative is an acknowledgment of the vital importance of the unique role universities will play in advancing our understanding and application of cryptography and blockchain technology,” said Eric van Miltenburg, senior vice president of global operations at Ripple.

Ripple connects banks, payment providers, digital asset exchanges and corporations to send money globally. Its global network enables financial institutions to process their customers’ payments anywhere in the world instantly, reliably and cost-effectively.

“UNC Kenan-Flagler and the Kenan Institute are uniquely qualified to be part of this global initiative,” said Greg Brown, professor of finance and director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Brown will co-lead the initiative with Ghysels. “Our research focus has always been around real-use cases that result in clear benefits to businesses and society, particularly with respect to cutting-edge technologies. This partnership with Ripple to discover useful applications of blockchain and cryptocurrencies is a logical extension of our efforts.”

The UNC professors will continue to build a comprehensive program focusing on the role of new technologies, specifically blockchain, cryptocurrency and cybersecurity, to transform finance and economics, computer science and related fields. By doing so, UNC Kenan-Flagler will help prepare the next generation of business leaders, entrepreneurs, computer scientists and other professionals who will develop and apply the technologies and business practices.


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