Blockchain technology appeared as a possible solution to certain problems in financial and banking industries, gradually unveiling its potential to bring benefits into other spheres of our lives.
In the last year, Cointelegraph has been hunting high and low to find new ideas, new faces, new movers and shakers in the industry. We looked in Adam Draper’s famous Blockchain melting pot a.k.a. Boost VC, we stopped by Satoshi Studios in South Asia, and, of course, by Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars.
However, we were always left with the question that kept bothering us - is this decentralized, segmented knowledge spread all over the world enough to push the current limits of the Blockchain development and adoption? Shouldn’t they be focusing a bit more on the technology itself with consistency and depth that of the academic research?
There are several examples, fortunately, of an approach different from a classic startup boost that can benefit the Blockchain and actually turn it into a functional industry. We mean the creation of research and development laboratories solely focusing on the technology (Deloitte’s Blockchain Lab in Ireland) as well as Blockchain research institutions (Blockchain Institute, IOHK, etc.)
Solutions for specific problems
The future looks bright for compact organizations focused on finding solutions for specific problems.
There are a few projects that already proved the efficiency of this mode of research work, so perhaps it is time to revise the need for huge Blockchain consortiums, the efficiency of which is questionable, and move research activities back to where they are meant to take place - academia?
Let’s look at a particular example of such an approach. Dmitry Meshkov and Alexander Chepurnoy, Software Developers and Researchers, have been exploring the ways to eliminate problems in existing cryptocurrencies and generally introduce improvements to the Blockchain layers. What they came up with was a new Blockchain that they called Ergo, a two-layer design implying the use of powerful mining hardware and low-end light nodes (e.g. mobile wallets).
“When creating a new block, miners provide the proof of its accuracy, while low-end clients can easily verify this, keeping only a few kilobytes of data”, explains Meshkov. “Similar approach is used for validation of Blockchain in general – Ergo is using “Proofs of Proof of Work” (see A.Kiayias et al.).”
The platform is introducing different approaches to the scaling problem, which complement one another. To achieve the maximum level of on-chain processing capacity, Ergo developers are planning to deploy Bitcoin-ng (to be more precise, the newest version of this protocol - Aspen), which allows processing up to 1,000 transactions per second.
Flexible transactional language allows building various off-chain protocols on top of the platform. For example Lightning or Sprites, which could increase processing capacity for up to 1,000 times. If this is still not enough, Proofs of Proof of Work would allow building side chains and launching a parallel Blockchain inhabited by same Ergo tokens.
Blockchain Institute and Grant Fund
Today, at Genesis Moscow Conference, Sasha Ivanov, CEO of Waves platform, and Dmitry Faller, Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, have announced the launch of Blockchain Institute (BI), which comprises its own Research and Development Laboratory, and the Grant Fund to support the research executed by BI project teams.
The general objective of the Blockchain Institute is to make a contribution to the development of Blockchain technology and facilitate its practical application. The Institute is established as a response to the need of time as well as growing demand for high-quality complex studies on Blockchain technology.
To fulfill this mission, it is utterly important to build a network of experienced researchers and connect them with developers.
“Technology is not isolated, it is integrated into our lives, daily activities, it should not be viewed as a separate and independent phenomenon, it is carrying a certain social mission, it triggers substantial changes in the society. The institute will become the center of expertise available for everyone – businesses, regulators, partnering projects, and community as a whole.”
Faller is certain that the Institute will give a rise to the community of highly qualified Blockchain experts and points out that the time couldn’t be better for establishing a center like this.
“Blockchain appeared on the intersection of many disciplines – cryptography, computer science”, he says. “We want to ensure integration of fundamental theoretical knowledge into practice.”
It is absolutely vital for the development of science that results of the research would be put into life. To facilitate practical implementation of solutions as well as motivate researchers to develop their expertise and industry in general, it was decided to create a special Grant Fund. While the Institute will be looking for multidisciplinary experts interested in driving innovation forward, the mission of the Fund will back their work with a substantial financial base.
Everyone seems to be benefiting – researchers will get their findings implemented in practice, enterprises will get ready solutions, while regulators will not be burdened by overseeing a very fragmented environment. It is not an attempt to centralize the community, but rather to systematize research activities and synchronize industry with academia, business and regulators.
How to study Blockchain and do it efficiently
Looking at existing research centers for Blockchain technology, the founders came to understanding that it might be very hard to nurture innovation in isolated environments built by particular companies or state agencies, as sometimes principles of these research centers might contradict with general priorities of the industry, there might be hidden agenda, as well as certain rules and limitations, which do not always facilitate development process.
Faller tells Cointelegraph:
“Art is Me, science is We, the true meaning of science is to cooperate, to unite looking for solutions to general problems. If it is done within one particular corporation or a state institution, there are certain limitations; there are also certain rules, which slow down the development. The Blockchain Institute is different in a sense that we are planning to collaborate with existing Blockchain consortiums, institutes and research centers.”
Sasha Ivanov, co-founder of Blockchain Institute, says that there is a huge space for research and development around Blockchain technology and not only because we don’t fully understand what this technology is about but also because the more we learn, the more challenges we uncover.
The most efficient approach towards development of Blockchain technology might be when research and practical application go hand in hand when practice summarizes theory and vice versa.
“We want to direct talents from serious Russian mathematical school into the path of Blockchain and let them drive the development of technology further. Besides we are planning to work with teams that are already researching Blockchain, we will not be focusing only on Russia, we will be attracting researchers and developers from around the world.”