The Imperial College of Business London and Entrepreneurs First - a pre-seed investment programme - recently launched a competition that is designed to encourage innovation in the field of Blockchain technology.
The competition is seeking entrants from a range of different departments including, business, computing, engineering and mathematics. The prizes: £3,000 for the best project, £1,000 for second place, and £500 for third. The competition will also be offering grants of up to £500 for entrants to purchase equipment necessary for the advancement of their projects.
Dr Llewellyn Thomas, a researcher in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship group at the Business School, has noted that the competition's focus is not Bitcoin as a currency. Instead, the competition aims to promote innovations on the Blockchain technology, noting that the distributed trust mechanism of the Blockchain is the truly innovative aspect of the technology.
The competition is open to students from any faculty in the college. Students entering the competition will be entitled to earn credits towards their degree course. Part of the inspiration for the Prize Fund seems to have been the story of Stewart Douglas, a Graduate student in the Computing Department of Imperial. Stewart founded TradeMore on foot of the research he had undertaken as part of his MSc in Computer Science. Trademore is a startup on enabling Bitcoin lending and borrowing. Stewart co-runs Trademore with Rory Greig, an Electronic Engineering graduate from Durham University and formerly an employee at Goldman Sachs.
Imperial also recently launched the University Imperial Bitcoin Forum, comprised of faculty from throughout the university. Stewart and Rory are both members of the Forum. The Forum will work with EF to provide mentoring and assistance to students entering the competition.
Imperial College London is not the first university to pay credence to the rise of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. In October of this year, the MIT Bitcoin Project gave every undergraduate $100 of bitcoin. They also launched the "MIT Bitcoin comp" which, like the Imperial Bitcoin Prize Fund, awarded cash prizes to students who developed the most impressive Bitcoin innovations. The competition proved very successful, with five teams each being awarded $1,5000 for their innovations. These innovations included "Rex Mercury" - a Bitcoin-to-SMS gateway for sending remittances to developing countries; "CoinJoin" - Bitcoin wallet that protects the anonymity of its users; "BitStation" - Bitcoin wallet with features tailored to the MIT community; "Fireflies" - "an app designed for student communities to build a favor economy; "PotLucky" - "tools for making convenient off-blockchain transactions. (https://mitbitcoinproject.org/winners).
Other universities have been yet more emphatic in their approach to Bitcoin and crypto-currencies. Last November, the University of Nicosia in Cyprus launched a Masters Programme in Bitcoin aimed at government officials, business persons and anyone aiming to learn more about Bitcoin. They also announced that they will be accepting bitcoin as payment for tuition and many of the university's amenities.
The university's introduction of this course was supposedly motivated by requests coming from students of the university. On foot of these requests, many coming from students studying abroad, the university engaged in a study examining the utility of such a course, concluding that it would be a worthwhile endeavor.
It remains to be seen whether other universities around the world will follow the examples of Imperial College London, the University of Nicosia and MIT.
What do you think about the initiative of Imperial College? Comment below!
Disclaimer: Author owns a small amount of bitcoin, litecoin and ripple.