The intervention of the university system in development cooperation has acquired an increasingly important role over the years in parallel with the growing need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the partnership initiatives implemented with the other cooperation actors, outlining a system in which institutions, civil society, businesses and universities have now found a precise place and complementary roles in dealing with development aid issues. In this framework, the role of the university has grown precisely by virtue of the process of rebalancing the decision-making fulcrum, moving from the donor country to the bilateral partnership, reversing the transfer process (of technologies, financial resources, skills) in favour of endogenous growth and the sharing of knowledge, up to the elaboration of new and original cultural syntheses. A fundamental push in this sense also derives from the need to encourage the growth of human capital through training, exchanges of students and teachers, and the establishment of ever-closer relationships between universities on the research and teaching front.
At the same time, it is now a consolidated practice by governmental and non-governmental organizations to make use of university support for the analysis and problem elaboration phases, as well as for the ex-ante and ex-post verification of the projects elaborated. University involvement in local development projects alongside non-governmental cooperation, has allowed the elaboration of intervention methodologies based on “appropriate technologies”, solutions not based on the efficiency criteria of industrialized countries, but capable of adapting to the system of structural constraints of the realities in which they must be implemented. The university system operates within the perimeter of its competencies and its mission, enhancing and qualifying at the same time the action of cooperation, providing it with a solid methodological setting and making skills, structures and technologies available. In terms of partnerships with institutions governmental, the university is called upon to play a pivotal role between the identification of the problem and the preparation of strategies to deal with it. It is at this level that the cooperation activities of the university can be found in the field of large healthcare structures and programs to fight endemic diseases, agricultural and energy development projects, and protection and enhancement of cultural resources (archaeological, linguistic, ethnographic studies, etc.), up to the preparation and implementation of university education and higher education projects.

The commitment of the University of Milan is available both as a general overview and an explorable database of projects.