W3F Research and ICE center at ETH Zürich Announce Research Collaboration

W3F Research and ICE center are excited to announce their joint work on the Polkadot protocol. As part of the collaboration, researchers at the ICE center will conduct formal verification of the liveness and safety guarantees provided by the finality gadget used on the Polkadot platform.

W3F Researcher Dr. Alistair Stewart devised a finality gadget, called GRANDPA (GHOST-based Recursive Ancestor Deriving Prefix Agreement), that allows for the separation of block production and the finality of those blocks. The goals are for the block production layer to be fast and probabilistically safe, while the finality gadget should be asynchronously safe, provide accountable safety, and be able to finalize many blocks at once.

GRANDPA figures out which blocks more than 2/3 of nodes have in their chain, and finalizes them. It can also give different nodes different weights. These weights could be determined by amount staked in the protocol. In this diagram, blocks C, B, and A are finalized.

The first project the collaboration will tackle is formalising the GRANDPA consensus algorithm. Ensuring consensus algorithms operate correctly is notoriously difficult, and we see formalization as a crucial step towards that outcome. After formalising the core steps of the algorithm, the teams will formally define, and prove, the safety of the algorithm. The ICE center will be undertaking the necessary work to formalise and verify the algorithm.

Petar Tsankov from the ICE center said, “I am really looking forward to the results that will come out of the collaboration between the Web 3 Foundation and the ICE center at ETH Zurich. It truly is an excellent example of a fruitful partnership, guiding academic research towards interesting and important open problems and hardening real-world systems with rigorous verification results based on the latest research.”

Peter Czaban from the Web3 Foundation said, “We are excited to work together to push state of the art in blockchain consensus algorithms and verify the fundamental properties of the GRANDPA finality gadget.”

About Web3

The Web3 Foundation is a Swiss foundation fostering and shepherding the cryptographically-enabled protocols that safeguard decentralisation and enable the vision of Web 3.0. The Web3 Foundation employs researchers who research novel cryptographic methods and funds teams developing bleeding-edge software protocols. Our primary project is the Polkadot project. We help set standards and to organise both online and offline to better coordinate teams and document progress, including workshops, meetups, and the annual Web3 Summit.

About ICE Center at ETH Zurich

ICE is an inter-disciplinary and inter-department R&D Center at ETH Zurich. The mission of ICE is to facilitate research-industrial interaction in the areas of AI, blockchain, security, and networks and to turn the latest research results into practical products for the global market via spinoffs from the ICE center.