As blockchain technology matures and promising projects emerge globally, one of the key challenges impeding progress is the lack of talent. Legacy enterprises and blockchain startups have been aggressively hiring, and with companies like Facebook also wooing industry experts to build their own teams, competition for talent is stiffer than ever. While the U.K. is poised to become a global hub for blockchain technology, the shortage of talent could become a stumbling block as part of a broader problem, with only 11 percent of businesses expecting to employ an adequate number of tech professionals this year.
The Future of Blockchain- a 3-month challenge for U.K. Universities, pits students against each other to steer the industry as well as to enhance education. I spoke to some of the key players at the event to find out how blockchain is being adopted within higher education and where they see the technology leading in the coming years.
Saiba Kataruka is Developer Marketing Lead at Zilliqa and responsible for leading blockchain education initiatives for students, as well as for experienced developers, around the world. Saiba previously worked as a consultant for IBM and is an alum of the University of Oxford where he completed his MBA. He explains why the company wanted to sponsor the event:
Sponsoring the Future of Blockchain allows us to interact with students from various academic disciplines such as law, engineering, journalism, and humanities, to name a few, and such a cross-disciplinary conversation often leads to some rather innovative ideas for applications of blockchain technology. We are keen to support a variety of blockchain applications while giving back to academia.”
As for the learning possibilities, Saiba believes they will be endless. He said:
There can be quite a steep learning curve in developing useful blockchain applications, where individuals or a team will need to have some understanding of blockchain technology, smart contract security, relevant business use cases, and token economics. We’ll be supporting all participating students in these areas throughout the 3-month long FoB competition.”
At the moment societies taking part are working on initiatives such as:
- Conversion of social media ‘likes’ to blockchain tokens to incentivize users who make quality posts.
- Decentralized prediction markets which can crowdsource knowledge for forecasts.
- Cryptocurrency-based asset transfer through chat applications.
Anthony Beaumont is both the organizer and Operations Director at StakeZero Ventures, an early stage blockchain venture capital fund. They in part created the Future of Blockchain to identify top talent at the earliest stage in emerging tech verticals, such as blockchain, and give them the opportunity to build applications and startups. Something Anthony thought was lacking in the current industry. He said:
From personal experience, I’ve found that universities are not set-up in a way that encourages entrepreneurship. Through FoB participants will learn how to build a startup- through mentorship but mainly through experience. We ask teams to build something in three months, pitch it, and compete to win cash prizes and possible investment. Students will also learn more about how to develop in an emerging tech vertical such as blockchain which they can use for future employment opportunities”.
Jun Ming Yong is a 4th-year student studying Politics, Philosophy, and Law at King’s College London, and is the President of the University’s Blockchain Society. His society decided to take part and give back to the blockchain community. He said:
As an emerging technology, blockchain is still in its early phases. Having only been ten years since Bitcoin was released, it still has a long way to go. As more developers learn about blockchain, they can explore new use cases and build new businesses, leading to a virtuous cycle of growth for the industry. We hope that by encouraging participants to build through our participation in the FoB, we can give back to the blockchain community.
The KCL Blockchain Society is a community first and foremost, so we do organize social gatherings for our members that may involve discussions over pizza and pints! But we definitely focus on creating and strive to provide an outlet for students to explore their interests in blockchain technology. As a result of our expertise, we’ve been recognized nationally and won the Bright Network’s Society of the Year award in the Innovation category. Society members are grouped into three groups: business, legal, and technology. Each group develops deep expertise in their knowledge area and we then form multi-disciplinary teams to build projects.”
Kai Han is a 2nd-year student currently studying Economics and Management at the University of Oxford and is the Oxford Blockchain Society President. He believes that this opportunity will open up the world of blockchain to a wider audience:
Given the fact that blockchain is such a new technology, I think students will have the opportunity to be creative. There is no blueprint for a blockchain-based product so every project involved in creating an application will be providing the industry with something new. As we don’t really know what blockchain will be five to ten years from now, the ideas, applications, and solutions that are being built from the ground up today may end up shaping the ideas of tomorrow.”
The finale of the Future of Blockchain project will be held in March.