University of Glasgow and Chinese tech firm team up to debut blockchain research lab

A £1.3 million research partnership has launched today, aiming to find out ways to make blockchain technology better-suited for high-volume applications, and potentially more eco-friendly.

The new Moshan Blockchain Lab at the University of Glasgow is a tie-up between researchers from the latter’s James Watt School of Engineering and Chinese tech company Victory Bench (VB) Hyperledger.

Over the next three years, researchers from the University will work with their counterparts at VB Hyperledger to develop new algorithms to use on the blockchain – the decentralised, global, digital ledger system that lets users securely store, verify and exchange information.

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One priority will be developing new methods for improving the scalability of blockchain transactions. Those behind the new initiative say the rate at which new information can be added to blockchain-enabled systems is limited, and this bottleneck prevents it from being more widely adopted for large-scale applications like mainstream banking or securing patient records in health systems.

Over the next three years, University researchers will work with peers at VB Hyperledger to develop new algorithms for use on the blockchain. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images.

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The researchers aim to develop a more streamlined system that will help to create a better method of accessing, verifying and amending blockchain records. The team will also investigate ways to make using blockchain-enabled processes easier to perform on lower-tech devices like mobile phones, which they say could lead to new protocols for performing calculations helping enable the creation of new units of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, potentially reducing the carbon footprint of the intensive process of crypto mining.

Dr Lei Zhang, of the University’s James Watt School of Engineering, will lead the lab, and said: “Blockchain technology has a great deal of potential still left untapped, and this collaboration is setting out to solve some of the problems of this evolving technology and expand the possibilities of how it can be used.

“We’ve already begun discussions with University colleagues in computing science, education, healthcare and finance about how we might collaborate in finding new applications for blockchain in their research and teaching.

“I’m looking forward to working with the VB Hyperledger team over the course of the next three years, and I hope that this will mark the start of a long and fruitful collaboration.”

Wang Bo is chairman of VB Hyperledger, which he said has made key breakthroughs in blockchain development, including enabling more than 140,000 transactions per second, and launching the Infinite Space Storage system that enables the blockchain to store hash values and accept large files like audio and video.

Potential

He said: “The Joint Lab has great potential to combine scientists from China and the UK to collaboratively create high-performance, co-governance, security and privacy blockchain application scenarios and solutions. [VB] Hyperledger is looking forward to working with more outstanding scientists and will continuously explore and develop in the field of blockchain.”

Over the course of the initial project, the Moshan Blockchain Lab researchers will also examine how 5G communications technology can support the potential applications of their new algorithms using the University of Glasgow’s Urban Testbed, funded by the Scotland 5G Centre.

Paul Coffey, chief executive of the Scotland 5G Centre, said: “5G and enhanced connectivity can improve efficiency and offer new opportunities for wireless blockchain networks to optimise performance and energy resource consumption. The Scotland 5G Centre is delighted to support this project and see the testbed as a key enabler for this research.”

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