Blockchain Project Grant Program

The Blockchain Project Grant Program aims to support the establishment of projects with a research, educational, or service focus related to blockchain and related technologies.

BACKGROUND

Through the generosity of benefactor Charles “Chad” Cascarilla, the University of Notre Dame has funds available to support projects related to blockchain and related technologies. The University has organized a Blockchain Working Group to guide the stewardship of the gift. The group seeks proposals for the establishment of projects with a research, educational, or service focus, or various combinations of these foci. The group also will evaluate proposals from organized student groups proposing to use blockchain technologies to address some facet of the student group mission or operations.                                                                       

The Blockchain working group will allocate up to $200,000 in 2019 to fund up to five projects. If requested by the proposer, a portion of the award may be made in the form of cryptocurrency (subject to availability). 

The use of blockchain technologies must be essential to the proposed work or activity. In addition, proposals must describe clearly the innovative elements and expected outcomes (new knowledge, activity, experience, or impact) in order to be funded. Proposals may describe some amount of background work to come up-to-speed on the basic concepts and technology of blockchains.

ABOUT BLOCKCHAIN

Blockchains are the technical foundation of cryptocurrency systems including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many others. Blockchains can also serve as “distributed ledgers” to permanently store transaction information in a highly redundant form across many computing systems. Certain blockchain platforms are also programmable, allowing for the creation of “smart contracts” intended to reduce the friction in various modes of exchange (money for goods, digital assets, etc.). These technologies are being proposed and used in a number of commercial and noncommercial settings as a means of storage, as a mechanism for establishing provenance, and as a vehicle for permanent recording of information.

As a basis for creating and exchanging financial and business transactional data, blockchains offer the potential for disintermediation – peer-­to-­peer exchange of value/information without third party involvement. As a consequence, they are controversial. For example, governments typically insist on knowledge of large financial transactions within their borders to combat financial crimes. Cryptocurrency has been used to facilitate the development of anonymous markets for drugs and weapons. Since it is a peer­-to­-peer system, the exchange of value is not easily tracked for the purposes of taxation. The regulatory environment around blockchain and related technologies is immature. Scholarly study of the technology and its uses is needed, as well as commentary on emerging policy and regulatory aspects of the technology. In addition, new use cases for this technology that clearly contribute to human flourishing are needed.

PRIORITIES

Proposals to this program will be evaluated based on their alignment with these program priorities:

  • Excellence
  • Mission fit - The University’s Catholic mission can be achieved in many ways, from scholarship that promotes a better understanding of our common humanity to applied research that strengthens our shared communities and promotes human flourishing.
  • Qualifications of project personnel
  • Budget realism
  • Prospects for continued support for the work from extramural sources after the internal funding is consumed

Eligibility                                                   

Proposals for research or instructional project support from the Blockchain Grant program must be submitted by a principal investigator (PI) who is a regular faculty member (as that term is defined in the Academic Articles). Proposals for support of service projects or student activities may be submitted by a faculty member or, if a student group will be performing the work, by the student group advisor (who must be a faculty or staff member at the University). In this case, the student group advisor must clearly state how they will oversee the project work.

DEADLINE

The application period is now closed.

PROPOSAL FORMAT AND SUBMISSION

Proposals must contain the following elements:

  1. A cover page listing a project title, the names of the PI and all co-­investigators and/or collaborators, department/center/student group/organization affiliation(s), and designation as a Blockchain Grant proposal.
  2. A one-­half page abstract that summarizes the proposed work.
  3. A narrative of three pages or less that provides a crisp problem statement, the relevance of blockchain technologies to solution of the problem, appropriate background work on the problem (with citations, if applicable), a description of project approach and methods, a plan of work (with schedule), and a list of expected outcomes/results/deliverables/impact.
  4. A curriculum vitae of three pages or less for each listed member of the project team.
  5. A project budget and justification, using this budget template. All budget items must be justified.
    • The following items are ineligible for support from this program: academic year faculty salary, salary for faculty on 12-month appointments, publication costs, capitalized equipment. Faculty on 9-month appointments may request up to one month of summer salary. 
    • Given the volatility of cryptocurrency-to-­dollar exchange rates, projects seeking to employ actual cryptocurrency in a project must budget it in dollars, and an appropriate exchange will be made at the time of the award to obtain the cryptocurrency portion and provide an e-­wallet to the PI for project use.

The submission should be a single PDF document named <PI_NAME>_Blockchain_Proposal_<YEAR>.pdf to intprogs@nd.edu. Proposals missing required elements or not complying with submission instructions may be rejected without review.

REVIEW PROCESS

Proposals are treated as confidential throughout the review process and are reviewed by a panel containing members of the Blockchain Working Group and other suitable persons selected for expertise. Recommendations for funding are made to the chair of the Blockchain Working Group, who will make the final decision.

Blockchain Working Group

Acceptance Conditions                                

In accepting an award from the Blockchain Grant program, the awardee agrees to:

  • Conform to established practices and procedures concerning sponsored program activity, and (if applicable) conform to policies and procedures governing the activities of student organizations.
  • Submit a final report to the Blockchain Working Group no later than three months after the end date of the award. The report should include a summary of the activities funded by the award, significant results achieved, a listing of any publications, manuscripts, or other outcomes of demonstrations of impact resulting from the award, and copies of any extramural funding proposals written using results from award support.
  • Awards will be made contingent upon approval of any protocols for research involving the use of live vertebrate animals, recombinant DNA molecules, and/or human subjects. Please obtain guidelines and policies affecting these types of projects from Notre Dame Research Compliance.       

PREVIOUS AWARDEES

NEED MORE INFORMATION?

Questions regarding this funding program may be directed to Patrick Flynn.