Building on a long and productive relationship between Chile and California, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet today presided over the signing of two landmark agreements with UC Davis, focused on strengthening research and teaching collaborations in the areas of grape growing and winemaking, and crop genetics and breeding.

A broad memorandum of understanding, intended to strengthen future cooperation between California and Chile, was also signed. That agreement will create new, collaborative educational opportunities and develop a partnership focused on ecosystem conservation and water management.

"It is particularly appropriate that President Bachelet joins us for the official signing of several agreements and understandings that build on a 40-year foundation of academic, business, and governmental collaborations between the people of California and the people of Chile," said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef during the signing ceremony held in UC Davis' Freeborn Hall.

"I am deeply honored that President Bachelet's vision to build the future of Chile on strategic partnerships in research, development of human capital, and public/private partnerships will expand those historic relationships," Vanderhoef said.

Bachelet also signed a partnership agreement between the California State University system and the Technical University of Chile involving curriculum development, college preparation and remediation strategies.

She also planned to visit UC Berkeley this afternoon to lecture and sign a collaborative agreement focused on alternative energy, higher education and innovation.

The Davis connection

Chancellor Vanderhoef noted that UC Davis has for decades been at the heart of collaborations between Chile and California. The two partners share the same Mediterranean climate that is conducive to producing similar food crops. And, because Chile and California are in different hemispheres, they have alternate growing seasons, which allows for a vibrant international trade in fresh fruits and vegetables.

More than 50 Chileans who studied agricultural sciences at UC Davis during the 1960s and 1970s are widely credited with helping to transform Chile into one of the world's leading fresh-fruit exporters, a movement that has contributed to the nation's rising standard of living.

Many of those Chilean students were participants in "convenio" Chile-California, a 1965-1973 exchange agreement that sent UC professors to Chile and Chilean graduate students to UC campuses. Most of the Chilean students came to UC Davis to study agriculture.

In Chile, those students became known as the "Davis boys," a nickname derived from the "Chicago boys," who were young Chileans who studied economics at the University of Chicago and launched economic policies that made Chile a model for free-trade advocates.

UC Davis and the University of California also are participating in a collaborative agreement with Fundacion Chile, a private, non-profit organization focused on nurturing innovation and developing skills and expertise in the workforce to boost Chile's economy.

New agreements

The first of the two newly signed agreements between UC Davis and Chile lays the groundwork for a new research, development and training program focused on plant genetic resources; development of new and hardier crop varieties; release of new crop varieties for the global market and collaborative graduate training programs in the area of plant genetics and breeding. The agreement was signed by UC Davis' Vanderhoef and by Leopold Sanchez, president of Chile's Institute for Agricultural Research.

UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science will be the primary campus partner in the new agreement. The Chilean participants will include the National Association of Seed Producers, the Institute of Research on Agricultural and Livestock, University of Chile, Pontificia Catholic University of Chile, Pontificia Catholic University of Valparaiso, University of Talca and University Austral of Chile.

The second agreement initiates a new research, development and training program intended to improve grape growing and winemaking expertise and technology. The new program will emphasize sustainable production, wine flavor improvement, and training of the next generation of winemakers and grape growers for both Chile and California.

Coordinating UC Davis activities in the partnership will be the Department of Viticulture and Enology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Chilean participants will include Vinnova, a consortium enterprise formed through the partnership of Vinas de Chile, the Catholic University of Chile, and the University of Concepcion, with the support of Innova Chile, a program coordinated by Chile's Ministry of Economy.

This second UC Davis agreement was signed by Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and by Rafael Giulisasti, president of the board of Vinnova.