Supporting agri-food research has been a priority for Fondazione Cariplo since 2008 when, together with other Italian banking foundations, it launched the project called AGER (Italian acronym of Agrifood & Research). Ager was the first agri-food initiative in Italy undertaken by such a broad partnership of funders: as many as 13 Italian banking foundations joined forces to support research in the fruits & vegetables, cereal crops, grape-growing & wine-making, and animal husbandry segments.

The alliance made with Agropolis Fondation supports a network of over 1,000 brilliant scientists engaged in agriculture and sustainable development research. Through this alliance, Fondazione Cariplo responds to global challenges and promotes new partnerships of Italian researchers with the main education/research institutes and research teams in the area of Montpellier, where the French partner foundation is based, and researchers in the rice producing countries in the world’s poorest areas.

The Foundations hope that the joint research efforts backed by them will deliver results that can be more easily transferred to agricultural practices, secure healthy food and protect natural resources, meeting the needs of disadvantaged countries and their populations.

This initiative shows that, when having common interests and being open to dialogue, foundations can pool their resources, work together and have a multiplier effect.

To select research projects aligned with the goals pursued under this initiative, the two Foundations designed a FIRST call for proposals that was launched in January 2012,  identifying priority areas and eligible organizations. After consulting with the respective scientific constituencies the Foundations defined the following research themes:

- Development of stress-resistant rice (genetics and genomics, breeding and eco-physiology of rice)
- Integrated crop protection (plant-pathogens interactions, diseases, insects, symbionts, population ecology)
- Design of agricultural eco-systems for the eco-sustainable management of rice production

- Design of agri-food systems for improved rice processing to maintain, and whenever possible, improve quality and safety.

They also set the following requirements:

- operational involvement of organizations from emerging/developing countries in the Mediterranean or other regions of the South of the world to ensure the connection with the true needs of these countries as well as a faster transfer of knowledge and skills to them;

- joint project coordination by Italian and French research teams respecting the bond the two Foundations have with their respective constituencies.

A Joint Committee composed of representatives from both Foundations was appointed to design, run and monitor the initiative. Agropolis Fondation was chosen as the Operational Platform for grant management.

The Foundations contributed equally to the initiative allocating €2 million funds in aggregate.