The Scottish capital has become home to Europe’s first blockchain research facility, thanks to a six-figure collaboration between Edinburgh Napier University and a Hong Kong-headquartered technology company.
Launched last night, the Blockpass Identity Lab (BIL) at Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston campus is part of a £600,000 partnership between the university and Blockpass IDN, a blockchain-based identity application provider.
As part of an initial three-year partnership, the BIL will explore ways in which blockchain technology can protect personal data from online scammers and hackers.
It will be the first blockchain-dedicated research lab in Europe, with the aim of building new data infrastructures which respect the rights, consent and privacy of citizens.
The funding will support five PhD students and create a “virtualised blockchain environment”.
After a series of high-profile data breaches at companies including Yahoo, Uber and Equifax, the risks of centralising personal user data are becoming a key corporate concern, with the digital identity market forecast to be worth $9.7 billion (£7.4bn) by 2021.
Identity fraud affects around one in ten people in the UK.
Bill Buchanan, professor in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier, said: “We are proud to be joining forces with Blockpass to create the first dedicated blockchain laboratory in Europe.
“Blockchain will have a significant and positive impact on multiple industries and the BIL will help to support its ongoing development.
“I look forward to providing updates on the progress of our PhD researchers and the latest innovations that we are providing to our corporate clients.”
Adam Vaziri, chief executive of Blockpass IDN, said Edinburgh Napier’s “long history of excellence” in technology and science was a key factor.
“This, combined with Blockpass’ pioneering approach to using blockchain to give users total control over their online identity, is a truly exciting opportunity for the BIL and it will allow the company to establish itself at the forefront of alternative technology innovation using blockchain solutions.”
Minister for the digital economy Kate Forbes called the collaboration “a great example of the type of partnerships which will help to ensure that Scotland has an innovative, world-class cyber security goods and services industry”.
Multiple events will be held at the campus in the week following the BIL launch.
These include the inaugural Blockpass Identity Lab Conference on Digital Identity, Blockchain and Advanced Cryptography on Friday, 28 September, and a “hackathon” starting on Saturday, 29 September. The hackathon invites participants to build prototype applications related to digital identity and blockchain, or other distributed ledger technologies.