Michigan Ross, U-M Faculty Join Together to Create New FinTech Collaboratory
A $1 million gift to the University of Michigan from Ripple, a global cryptocurrency and blockchain technology company, will spur the development of a new multidisciplinary collaboration focused on supporting academic research and innovation around blockchain, cryptocurrency, and digital payments.
U-M was one of 11 universities chosen by Ripple to receive its latest round of funding. Sixteen other schools received the company’s financial backing in June of last year.
“The most important thing this funding allows us to do is to integrate the engineering and data science with finance and policy for applications such as smart cities, supply chain inefficiencies, and democratizing access to banking and quality infrastructure,” said Peter Adriaens, Ross professor of entrepreneurship and director of the Center for Smart Infrastructure Finance.
Will cryptocurrencies and other uses take over the world, or are they more hype than reality? The concept’s biggest supporters and critics both seem to agree on at least two things: There are a lot of unknowns, and there’s a lot at stake.
To help close that gap, U-M recently launched the FinTech Collaboratory, a new venture that represents an interdisciplinary partnership between the Ross School of Business, College of Engineering - Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ford School of Public Policy, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
“If there is one thing that U-M can bring to the blockchain discussion, it’s our expertise around all areas of FinTech,” Adriaens said. “We have experts in business, engineering, policy, law, and more — it’s a powerful combination with a lot of potential to impact and drive the collective conversation on this topic.”
Ross professors Ravi Anupindi, Andrew Wu, Robert Dittmar, Jeremy Kress and David Brophy, along with Michael Barr, dean of the Ford School of Public Policy, comprise a core group of people currently working with Adriaens to expand opportunities for U-M students who want to work on blockchain applications. Student clubs like Blockchain at Michigan, comprised of Business, Engineering and LSA students, are already organically driving scale and teaching modules to their peers.
“Companies like Ripple know there aren’t enough professors teaching blockchain and cryptocurrency applications to educate the next generation of financial technologists,” Adriaens said. “From my perspective, it is really important that we structure a multi-faceted curriculum so we can continue developing a cohort of students who can work on these projects.”
“Big investors and fund managers are starting to look at ways to use this technology to invest in all sorts of real estate, infrastructure, energy and water systems by way of blockchains and cryptocurrencies … It is still a nascent opportunity, so the case needs to be made for scalable applications,” Adriaens said.
“That’s where the work of this group will come in.”