Seven major universities are working together to develop a digital currency network that solves blockchain’s scalability and performance problems before public confidence in the technology erodes.

Funded by a Swiss-based non-profit organization, the cryptocurrency application, called Unit-e, and its blockchain-based payment system is expected to launch in the second half of this year; if successful, it would surpass even mainstream financial networks like Visa’s VisaNet in transactional capability.

The Distributed Technology Research Foundation (DTR) Foundation, the Swiss organization behind the new Unit-e cryptocurrency development effort, was formed to promote open distributed networking technology. In an academic paper, DTR explained the need to build a decentralized trust system “is broad and pressing.”

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley are among the institutions collaborating on the new payment network that will address performance, security and privacy of cross-border financial transactions. The effort was unveiled Thursday.

DTR researchers have written, and in some cases published in peer-reviewed publications, 10 research papers. In those papers, they describe a decentralized payment system as the “killer app” for blockchain, akin to what email was for TCP/IP.

“A lack of scalability is holding back cryptocurrency adoption, and DTR’s groundbreaking research is addressing this,” said Joey Krug, a member of DTR’s Foundation Council and co-chief investment officer at hedge fund Pantera Capital, a backer of Unit-e. “The Unit-e developers are turning this research into real scalable performance which will benefit a huge swath of decentralized financial applications.”

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