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VOL. 131 | NO. 135 | Thursday, July 7, 2016

FedEx Institute of Technology Builds Tech Reputation

By Andy Meek

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The FedEx Institute of Technology will host a training course on blockchain technology, the buzzy infrastructure that comprises the backbone of bitcoin, as part of a broader push to position itself at the center of innovation in the city.


It’s a push that’s resulted in other high-tech research concentrations and partnerships at the institute around topics like robotics, cybersecurity, smart biomaterials and precision medicine. Earlier this year, the institute also teamed up with the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute to launch a biologistics partnership that included funding nine interdisciplinary biologistics projects.

The latest effort, “Blockchain Technology for Professionals,” is a workshop being presented Aug. 4 and 5. Others to come later this year include a training event in the fall on the statistical computing and graphics programming language known as “R,” and on additive manufacturing for biomedical devices.

Cody Behles, the institute’s manager of innovation and research support, said the institute, through programming like this, wants to be seen as a source for skill development and resources around all emerging technologies.

“Blockchain doesn’t have the popular appeal of other emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles, but it is likely to be adopted very quickly and bring a dramatic change in how businesses and organizations manage their data,” Behles said.

Blockchain emerged out of the geekier corners of the technology community and grew to prominence internationally as the backbone of bitcoin, according to Behles. But because security is so paramount to modern digital infrastructures, the high level of security inherent in the technology, as well as its distributed database structure, make it a natural fit for any company or organization that values the security and privacy of their data, he added.

“Blockchain technology is a game-changer,” said Dawn Jutla, one of the instructors for the upcoming course. “Firms across all industries are using (it) to set off another wave of reengineering effort, (to) decrease risk, increase efficiency as it automates long-lived transactions, and remove human error, increase visibility and transparency, reduce the possibility of fraud, and to provide a chain of custody around assets in their supply chain,” Jutla said.

Bigger picture, look for more tech- and innovation-focused efforts and projects like this from the institute.

The institute’s executive director, Jasbir Dhaliwal, likes to stress that one of the things that makes cities like San Francisco fertile ground for innovation and progressive ideas around technology and entrepreneurship is their universities that produce abundant intellectual property and research.

He and the rest of the institute’s leadership want to see it take on a similar identity in Memphis, thus the focus on programming like the blockchain workshop.

The institute is home to the University of Memphis’ intellectual property and patent repository, and also houses the university’s graduate school, which has a few thousand doctoral and masters students.

Also housed at the FedEx Institute is the Office of Technology Transfer, which invests in new innovations and licenses intellectual property to local companies.

“Memphis has a lot of entrepreneurship-focused incubators, but what makes other cities you think about as places for innovation – they have universities that contribute intellectual property to sustain the innovation climate,” Behles said. “We’re a comprehensive research institution in Memphis that’s trying to fill the role on the academic and research side of innovation and technology.”

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