Blockchain group spearheading innovation at Queen’s

Queen’s Blockchain Innovation Community investigating possibilities for blockchain applications

QBIC founders from left to right: Sacha Lansky, Marcel Kraus de Camargo and Andrew McColl.
Supplied by QBIC

With the explosion of Bitcoin this past summer, there’s been a growing interest in the technology that was invented to power the cryptocurrency, blockchain. Queen’s Blockchain Innovation Community has formed to help advocate for blockchain research and potential applications on campus.

Founded in the fall of 2017, Queen’s Blockchain Innovation Community (QBIC) is the first student-run body at Queen’s with a focus on fostering an interest and interdisciplinary understanding of blockchain technology. The organization brings together students and faculty members of all disciplines to learn about the main precedents and aspects of blockchain.

Put simply, blockchain is a continuous list of records called blocks, which are linked and secured via cryptography. By storing data across its network, blockchain eliminates the risks associated with centrally-held data. 

QBIC pursues multidisciplinary discussions aimed at a deeper understanding of the potential innovations and impacts of blockchain technology. The group’s four main student-led initiatives are workshops on user adoption, workshops for developers, QBIC capital and monthly presentations, as well as meetups on various blockchain-related topics.

“Blockchain is interdisciplinary,” co-chair Marcel Kraus de Camargo, ArtSci ’19, said. “The applications of the underlying technologies of cryptocurrencies and blockchain are incredibly disruptive for all kinds of fields. We put an emphasis on the interdisciplinary nature of our discourse with a focus on discussion and community engagement.”

Due to its proximity to other universities, major cities and local projects — like Kingston’s SPARC — Kraus de Camargo wants to see blockchain-related topics taught at Queen’s.

“What we are doing right now is getting the relevant people, the relevant thinkers onto campus, and we’re finding talent that has always been here, but is only now coming out of the woodworks,” he said.

The trio articulated the importance for establishing campus engagement, as well as the potential for blockchain research and discussion at Queen’s and the impacts of fostering awareness.

“It will be so important to every career and everyone will need to learn it,” QBIC consultant, Sacha Lansky, ArtSci ’16, said. “If we can build something strong enough here, there may be incentive to change curriculums elsewhere, and there should be.”

Queen’s has an extensive alumni network with individuals in the industry. Most notably, QBIC recruited University alumni, QCIB and OKLink founder, Jack Liu, Comm ’10, for a conference back in November. 

“Jack Liu is looking to directly help QBIC, the School of Business, and Queen’s as a whole through his connections in the industry. Thanks to the sheer volume of the alumni network, we can continuously expand and make more connections,” Lanksy said. 

According to fellow co-chair Andrew McColl, Comm ’20, it’s advantageous for university students to learn about blockchain. He believes this is especially due to pressure for individuals to become more entrepreneurial in a less-secure job market.

“Queen’s can get ahead of this curve and become recognized as one of the leading Canadian universities utilizing this overarching technology, which has uses for application in health care, finance, supply chains and even voting,” he said.

QBIC ultimately wants to see student engagement with blockchain across faculties, paving the way for Queen’s to become a research hub for blockchain technology. 

“For the first time in history, imagine a scenario where people have their own digital sovereignty, their own financial sovereignty and where governments don’t enter the equation,” Lansky said. “[Blockchain] is generating social and economic paradigm shifts. Imagine everyone has control of all their assets, contracts and goods registered on a ledger identifiable by their digital identity.”

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