Cleveland University Partnership Creates Blockchain and Digital Futures Think Tank

A partnership between Case Western and Cleveland State University will conduct research into a variety of technologies, including the Internet of Things, but funding issues still need to be worked out.

by Emily Bamforth, Advance Ohio Media / December 5, 2018
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(TNS) -- Case Western Reserve University Barbara Snyder announced Tuesday the formation of a new “Cleveland Blockchain and Digital Futures Hub."

The think tank will not only address blockchain technology, but also build on research in other areas, such as the Internet of Things and augmented and virtual reality. The hub will bring together business, academic institutions, government and tech accelerators across the region to develop research and build applications.

CWRU President Barbara Snyder said the think tank builds on an existing partnership between Cleveland State University on Internet of Things research. The Internet of Things refers to the network of smart devices and how data is shared between them.

Snyder announced the hub Tuesday at the Blockland Solutions conference. CSU president Harlan Sands, Snyder and Cuyahoga Community College president Alex Johnson were among the first recruits to the Blockland initiative, which aims to make Northeast Ohio a center for blockchain technology. The three presidents flew to Toronto with Blockland creator Bernie Moreno to visit the Blockchain Research Institute this summer.

The idea for the think tank is in its earliest stages: It doesn’t have a physical home (it could also be housed online), isn’t funded yet and doesn’t have a central administration to run day-to-day operations. The group within the Blockland initiative organizing it has only met three times in person.

Though Snyder said CWRU will be home to the hub and the meetings discussing it have been on campus, that does not mean there will be a space for it at the university, organizers clarified in an afternoon session.

The idea is that by bringing all of these organizations together, the think tank can foster an environment for collaboration, not competition. So, for example, a business like Rockwell Automation can bring an idea to the think tank and researchers at one of the region’s universities could work on it.

Universities are already working together on creating more offerings for those interested in blockchain. The Blockland initiative has a goal of training 1,000 coders in blockchain development.

“Other blockchain educational initiatives usually involve a single company or a lone university,” Sands said. “In contrast, Cleveland is poised to leverage the whole continuum of interests: the strength of the community college, the city’s public research institute institution and the regions only AAU (Association of American Universities) research institution.”

During remarks on Tuesday, Sands said CSU and Tri-C are working to incorporate blockchain into technology degrees, College Credit Plus offerings and at CSU’s technology and science-focused MC2STEM High School. He said CSU needs to understand how blockchain could affect business and government.

Details weren’t shared during the announcement. There will be a session at the Blockland Solutions conference at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the hub.

This story is updated with information from an afternoon session on the hub.

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