The Gilardini Foundation was founded by Prof. Gianfranco Gilardini in 1980 with the idea of helping Italian students continue their studies in the United States. It was aimed at students of engineering, urban planning and architecture, with the first scholarships awarded in the 1980s.

Gianfranco Gilardini had hoped to spend his life as an academic, but with four children and a wider family to support, he went into business. He became very successful and his greatest achievements can be seen in Monaco, where he was responsible for increasing the land area of the Principality by nearly one third by reclaiming the waterfront; in founding the Stretto di Messina SpA (the company responsible for the Straits of Messina bridge project); in the construction of several marinas in Italy and as the CEO of successful industrial companies in Italy and abroad.