This blog post marks the launch of the LexTech Institute at the University of Neuchâtel. Instead of keeping you up to date with the latest news on law and technology or offering a cross-cutting analysis on topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, blockchain, online dispute resolution, or personality in the digital world – which we will do regularly in this blog – this first post is devoted to the presentation of the LexTech Institute, exposing the vision of its founders and giving a brief overview of the objectives pursued by this research center.
One institute, multiple research labs
The LexTech Institute is a research center intended to provide researchers from the University of Neuchâtel and its partners with an environment which fosters the studying and the understanding of the challenges and issues related to the development of digital technologies. The LexTech Institute is organized into three Labs, each targeting a specific area of research. The Cryptoeconomic Systems Lab is devoted to decentralized digital systems using cryptographic protocols and mechanisms for attributing economic benefits (e.g. blockchain) and the interactions between the actors of these systems. The Digital Justice Lab deals with digital justice in the broad sense, namely access to justice for actors in the digital space, on the one hand, and the digitization of justice, on the other. The Digitalized Persons Lab analyzes the rights of individuals affected by the digital space and the evolution of personality in this environment. Researchers from different Labs will work in close collaboration as a result of the transversal nature of those subjects. Other Labs may be added to the three initial Labs in order to expand research to other areas where technological evolution plays a key role.
Linking law and technology
The objective pursued by the LexTech Institute is to bring together researchers – mainly but not only from legal and IT backgrounds – interested in digital technologies. When dealing with technological innovation, lawyers must be able to understand the essential elements of the technology in order to identify relevant legal issues. This is the reason why the LexTech Institute’s primary mission is to educate lawyers about the particularities of the technological environment and help them acquire the necessary skills to develop legal rules that take technical constraints into account. Providing computer scientists with legal reasoning is also a key mission of the LexTech Institute. It is indeed essential that new technologies are developed within the framework defined by the rules of law, and conversely, to be able to set up a legal framework that takes into account the particularities of the digital world with its dematerialized model that transgresses physical borders. Law and computer science are in constant interaction in the digital field and the need to create synergies between these disciplines is one of the vectors that led to the creation of the LexTech Institute.
An interdisciplinary and international community
Research within the LexTech Institute will not only focus on legal and technological aspects of the digital transformation. The founders of the LexTech Institute are convinced that an interdisciplinary approach is of paramount importance when analyzing the digital transformation. Therefore, economics and social sciences will be an integral part of the Institute and research will be conducted across those fields as well. The aim is to provide a platform to promote regular interactions between researchers of different fields, giving them the unique opportunity to acquire a common language, which is essential for the development of concrete solutions in response to the challenges arising from the digitization of society.
Faced with issues that transcend national borders, scientific reasoning must adopt a global vision. The LexTech Institute is intended to develop international cooperation with other academic institutions in order to form a network of Swiss and foreign researchers.
The LexTech Institute is nonetheless anchored in the local ecosystem, which is characterized by a large number of contributors to innovation. Neuchâtel is home to many businesses and start-up companies working on the development of digital activities linked in particular to blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies and cryptofinance. One of the missions of this research center is to create synergies between the academic world and digital entrepreneurs by welcoming experts who share the same passion for the technological transformation of society.
Investing in training
The vocation of the LexTech Institute is not limited to research, but also extends to training. The results of research carried out within the framework of the LexTech Institute will be used to define a theoretical and practical framework for education. This research center will thus promote understanding of the relationships between different scientific fields and digital technologies, not only through teaching at Bachelor or Master levels, but also as part of continuing education programs which may or may not lead to certification.
Many events related to law and digital technologies will be offered under the aegis of the LexTech Institute. A conference on the theme of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) offering a panel of international blockchain experts is already planned. The LexTech Institute will also publish the first titles in its collection in the coming months.
Pay attention to our blog: blog posts will regularly animate this section, bringing together a community of people with a passion for emerging technologies and interested in the societal challenges generated by digital transformation.
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Florence Guillaume and Pascal Felber, founders of the LexTech Institute