In one of the strongest acknowledgements that finance has transformed from a low-tech field to one that relies on some of the most sophisticated technology in the world, the National Science Foundation has selected Stevens Institute of Technology to lead the first-ever industry-university cooperative research center, or IUCRC, devoted to financial technology and science.
The five-year award creates a cooperative research center that brings together partners to conduct research that is particularly relevant for industry and has a high potential for commercialization. Stevens was named lead institution for the center, which includes Georgetown University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and between eight and 25+ companies with the goal of finding innovative solutions for complex challenges facing the fintech industry.
“Georgetown and RPI complement our strengths very nicely,” said George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center at Stevens School of Business and a co-principal investigator on the project. “Georgetown is good in traditional finance and the regulatory end of the business — what is the Federal Reserve going to do, what is the Treasury going to do — in ways that reflect their own location advantage. And RPI brings additional scientific and technological capabilities to the table.”
Stevens’ location and existing relationships with financial firms position it well to lead the center. With its proximity to New York City, Stevens has worked closely with financial firms and banks to identify core challenges facing industry and has responded by addressing those needs, further strengthening these relationships while simultaneously shaping its research endeavors and curriculum to align with those needs. The result: the transformation of the School of Business to a tech-infused powerhouse.
The list of firms who provided letters of support as part of Stevens bid included UBS, Bank of America, Citibank and Royal Bank of Canada among the headliners. Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group; PSEG; OneMarketData; and Capco, a global management consultancy, also supported Stevens’ bid. “The reason we were successful is that we showed we would have major industry participation,” said Calhoun.
Among the initial areas of focus in the IUCRC will be cybersecurity; high-frequency automated markets; technology risk and regulation; commercialization; and applications of blockchain, quantum computing, natural language processing and A.I. to the finance industry.
That diversity is reflected by the broad expertise of the co-principal investigators, which includ Giuseppe Ateniese (computer science), Jeffrey Nickerson (information systems and networks) and Darinka Dentcheva (mathematics and optimization). Working with such a broad panel of experts — in addition to thought leaders at Georgetown, RPI and industry — will empower a multidisciplinary approach that should break traditional research silos, said Steve Yang, the principal investigator on the project.
“I couldn’t be more excited to have Stevens play such an important leadership role in an NSF IUCRC center,” said Gregory Prastacos, dean of the Business School at Stevens. “The IUCRC will not only help us bring our work to the companies that would benefit from these insights, it also gives us another channel to engage industry and better understand the unique challenges they face.”
The NSF IUCRC announcement comes on the heels of MaCuDE, a global initiative led by Stevens and AACSB, and funded by PwC, to guide more than 100 universities across the world on how to reboot the traditional MBA curriculum to keep pace with the demands of the digital era. Stevens also recently announced their partnership with Capco, a managment consultancy with a strong focus on financial services will leverage Stevens research strengths in quantum, A.I. and blockchain, among other areas, to improve the digital portfolio of their clients.
Stevens is now in the planning phase for the IUCRC project, which will run for one year to identify an agenda of research topics based on industry feedback. Each industry partner will contribute $50,000 per year to contribute toward these research efforts.
There are about 75 NSF-funded industry-universitycooperative research centers across the United States.
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