Ethereum Foundation Funds Smart Contract Language Research at Columbia and Yale

The Ethereum Foundation has awarded a grant to researchers at American Ivy League universities Columbia and Yale for the creation of a new smart programming language for the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This news comes via a press release distributed earlier today.

The grant will go directly to a smart contract R&D (research and development) project called DeepSea, lead by Professor Ronghui Gu, an assistant professor of computer science at Columbia, who will work together with researchers at Yale. In addition to his professorship, Gu is the co-founder of blockchain security firm Certik, which employs formal verification technology to combat hackers. Certik raised “several millions” in a round led by Binance Labs in October 2018, according to a Medium article published by the company.

These most recent grants mark the fifth round of financing lead by the Ethereum Foundation Grants Program, which aims to support Ethereum 2.0 and efforts to scale Layer 2.

DeepSea is named after a new smart contracts programming language created at the research lab headed by Zhong Shao, the chair of the computer science department at Yale, as well as a co-founder of Certik.

The programming language was originally designed to implement system software, however, Gu notes that due to the risks associated with smart contracts, specifically their permanence, his team will also focus on this area of development. Said GU:

“Because [smart] contracts are self-executable and permanent, it is crucial that these contracts perform only as they are precisely intended. The DeepSEA language will allow programmers to add safeguards to ensure that the code conforms exactly to its specifications, using Formal Verification.”

Formal Verification technology is “the process of leveraging mathematical proofs to verify the correctness of code implementation.” Although it was reportedly used in the NASA Mars Rover missions, it is now being used in software systems, including Certik’s smart contract and blockchain protocol auditing.