A coalition of the world’s leading zero-knowledge (ZK) technology companies, funds and foundations has spear a $7 million competition to accelerate innovation in space.

The supporters of ZPricewhich includes Manta Networkthe Ethereum Foundation, Matter Labs, Aleo, Anoma, Polygon, and Polkadot, have joined forces with chipmaker giant Advanced Micro Devices to encourage teams to advance the development of ZK cryptography, which can make transactions more faster and with less energy.

ZPrize was modeled after the famous XPrize Competition that have taken place in the past to fuel innovation in areas ranging from adult literacy and spaceflight to COVID-19 research and carbon removal. The competition will award prizes in several categories to teams capable of designing new algorithms and techniques capable of achieving performance superior to that of current ZK systems.

AMD’s involvement in the competition stems from the idea that ZK technology can be scaled using specialized hardware such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and graphics processing units ( GPUs). AMD and its subsidiary Xilinx will provide competing teams with access to state-of-the-art FPGAs and GPUs to develop their solutions.

Hamid Salehi of the AECG Data Center Group at AMD said he believes integrating ZK cryptography into blockchains is key to enabling widespread adoption of the breakthrough technology. He said ZK techniques require increased computing power which AMD is only too happy to provide.

“FPGAs are uniquely positioned to efficiently accelerate the zero-knowledge protocol, at the hardware level, to create scalable blockchain solutions,” Salehi said. “AMD-Xilinx is proud to support the ZPrize competition with our FPGA-based accelerators to empower the community to create innovative solutions that help advance zero-knowledge technology.

ZPrize will offer USD and cryptocurrency rewards for teams in a range of categories that have been identified by competition sponsors. Each category is considered to be of critical importance for the practical application of ZK systems. The team’s submissions will be judged against the technical criteria of existing systems, with awards paid to those who can demonstrate the greatest performance improvements. All winning teams will be required to make their submissions open-source.

One of the most interesting categories concerns the multiscalar multiplication (MSM) and transformation operations of number theory. It is sponsored by Manta, which has developed a protocol for zkSNARKS that provides privacy for crypto wallets and DeFi applications. Manta wants to see a big improvement in latency and throughput from these techniques when used with the WebAssembly Runtime (WASM) which is used by many smart contracts.

Shoumo Chu, co-founder and lead contributor of Manta, said improving ZK proof performance in WASM-based smart contracts is key to zkSNARKS adoption. “In order to achieve mass adoption of ZKP and privacy, we need to achieve integration of ZKP prover with popular wallets, and improving the performance of WASM prover is the way forward,” Chu said.

Better performance is needed because Manta benchmarks show that WASM applications process transactions around 10-15 times slower when using existing zkSNARK technology, compared to their native transaction speed.

“We chose to be the architect and sponsor of the Open Division because we really care about the performance of WASM ZKP,” Chu said. “We view WASM ZKP performance as the ‘last mile problem’ for ZKP mass adoption.”

The ZKprize competition is now accepting applicants, and anyone with academic or industrial experience in cryptography, mathematics, electrical and hardware engineering, or optimization is encouraged to participate.

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