MIT President L. Rafael Reif and Gianfelice Rocca, chair of the Fondazione Fratelli Agostino ed Enrico Rocca, signed an agreement today renewing the Progetto Roberto Rocca, a two-way partnership between the Institute and Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI), Italy's top engineering school.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Fondazione will provide $1.4 million to support a number of joint research projects, seminars, lectures, and other programming, including the MIT-Italy Program, through 2020. With this renewal, the Fondazione will have contributed $3.9 million over 15 years in support of the MIT-POLIMI partnership. The foundation honors the memory of MIT alumnus Roberto Rocca.
According to President Reif, “MIT’s partnership with POLIMI has yielded wonderful opportunities for our faculty, postdocs, and students to collaborate with their counterparts in Italy in addressing common challenges in engineering and science. We remain grateful for the Fondazione’s continued commitment to creating such meaningful pathways for collaboration in problem-solving.”
Gianfelice Rocca, the son of Roberto Rocca, and one of Italy’s leading industrialists, paid special tribute to MIT for establishing this program: "The Fondazione has been delighted to see such a robust and productive partnership develop between MIT and the Politecnico over the last decade, and looks forward to confirming its support to this initiative in the name of Roberto Rocca."
The gift will specifically support:
- two-way research stays for graduate students and postdocs at MIT and at POLIMI;
- seed funds to support joint research collaborations between MIT and POLIMI faculty and their students;
- travel grants for faculty to explore research collaborations and participate in lectures or seminars; and
- events, seminars, and other activities to build the community of scholars involved in the Progetto.
An aspiration for the next five years is to build on the success of the first 10. With a focus on early-stage work — through supporting both promising young scholars and research projects in the start-up phase — the Progetto seeks to contribute to the emergence of the next generation of exceptional scientists and connect them with meaningful international experiences.
Another major goal is to broaden and deepen the impact of these exchanges, in part by involving more faculty and students from both institutions. Since 2005, Progetto Rocca has facilitated more than 30 collaborations between MIT and POLIMI faculty and has funded nearly 100 doctoral and postdoctoral Rocca Fellows at each institution. Many of these collaborations have led to joint publications and have received other forms of academic recognition.
The idea to strengthen interactions between MIT and POLIMI came from more than the institutions’ shared commitment to excellence in research and education. The Progetto is named in memory of Roberto Rocca ScD '51 (1922-2003), an alumnus of both institutions. Born in Milan and a graduate of the Politecnico di Milano, Roberto Rocca earned a ScD from MIT in materials science and engineering.
The aims of the Progetto are in keeping with Roberto Rocca's passion for education, keen interest in scientific innovation, and his life and career building connections across the Atlantic. Supported activities also reflect Rocca’s fields of interest, including materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, biological engineering and life sciences, electrical engineering, energy, and computer science.