UBC launches blockchain, distributed ledger program for graduate students


The University of British Columbia (UBC) is launching a blockchain and distributed ledger technology training program for graduate students.

“As the country’s first graduate blockchain learning path, the initiative is transformative to the blockchain sector.”

The training program, which UBC called the first of its kind in Canada, will concentrate on four sectors: health and wellness, clean energy, regulatory technology, and Indigenous issues. It seeks to train 139 students over six years to help scale Canada’s blockchain industry while also addressing socio-technical issues related to FinTech, engineering, computer science, and information governance.

“As the country’s first graduate blockchain learning path, the initiative is transformative to the blockchain sector in Canada and beyond,” said Victoria Lemieux, UBC iSchool associate professor and Blockchain@UBC cluster lead. “The initiative will allow students to develop the skills around emerging technologies that are in high demand as well as drive economic growth as graduates fill the void in the industry.”

The initiative will be supported by 15 industry partners that will offer students internships in collaboration with Mitacs, a nonprofit national research organization that creates partnerships with Canadian academia, private industry, and government to support various research and training programs.

Mitacs will reserve a potential investment $1.32 million over the next six years to match industry funding on an annual basis for up to 18 masters and eight PhD internships. UBC said the money will go toward skills training and capacity for international experience, stating that it represents a combined potential value of over $2.44 million for 156 internships and post-doctoral training endeavours.

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Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim Canada will be a flagship partner, providing funding to support research at the intersection of blockchain and healthcare. Recently, Boehringer Ingelheim Canada and IBM Canada partnered to explore the use of blockchain technology in clinical trials, marking the first time that blockchain technology would be explored in a clinical trial setting in Canada.

The blockchain training program will be taught by UBC faculty from various disciplines. As part of the learning outcomes, UBC said students can expect to critically analyze blockchain and explore innovative areas where blockchain can be applied to achieve business, social, and technical benefits.

“We are proud to be part of a collaboration that is considered to be the first in Canada offering multidisciplinary graduate education in blockchain technology, developing the next generation of innovators,” said Uli Brödl, vice president of Medical and Regulatory Affairs at Boehringer Ingelheim Canada. “This collaboration will allow us to grow the knowledge base and expertise of scientists to leverage the value of blockchain technology in healthcare.”

The training path is expected to officially launch in January 2020.

Image courtesy UBC

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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