Cryptocurrency start-up Ripple is shelling out $50m to support a number of top universities around the world with their blockchain research programmes.

The company behind XRP, the third largest cryptocurrency by market cap, is collaborating with 17 universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University College London.

According to Ripple, the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) will "support and accelerate" academic research, technical development and innovation in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments.

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"Interest in blockchain is soaring, with a groundswell of activity taking place on the campuses of the world's top universities," the start-up said in a blog post.

"From new business use cases — such as making cross-border payments faster, lower cost and more transparent — to uses of blockchain for good, students and faculty globally are emerging as major contributors to the creation of a more robust and valuable blockchain and payments ecosystem."

Describing itself as "one of the most mature companies in the space", Ripple said it was uniquely suited to partner with the academic community and help lead development of this ecosystem.

The first wave of university partners will have access to $50m in funding, subject matter expertise and technical resources – but will determine their own research topics and priority areas of focus.

"As the traditional backbone of innovation, universities uniquely offer an independence and rigor that the private sector cannot," Ripple continued.

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"They also are responsible for training the workforce of the future, helping to address the demand for technological solutions and talent to solve the world's hardest financial problems.

"Now is the perfect time to support research and study in blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments at universities around the world."

The list of 17 academic partners includes Princeton University, UC Berkeley, MIT, Delft University of Technology, IIT Bombay, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Luxembourg, Australian National University, Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil, IIIT Hyderabad, Korea University, UT Austin, University College of London, University of Nicosia, University of Oregon, and University of Waterloo.