In early 2008, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering announced 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century.
A diverse committee of experts from around the world, some of the most accomplished engineers and scientists of their generation, proposed the 14 challenges outlined in this booklet. The panel, which was convened by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) at the request of the U.S. National Science Foundation, did not rank the challenges selected, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting them. Rather than attempt to include every important goal for engineering, the panel chose opportunities that were both achievable and sustainable to help people and the planet thrive. The panel’s conclusions were reviewed by more than 50 subject-matter experts. In addition, the effort received worldwide input from prominent engineers and scientists, as well as from the general public. – Grand Challenges Report
14 Grand Challenges for Engineers
Advance Health Informatics
As technology improves, there is a need for innovation in health informatics to improve the effectiveness and quality of medical care.
Advance Personalized Learning
Because of the complexity of each human brain and the diversity of individual preferences, developing teaching methods that optimize “personalized learning” that is tailored to a student’s individual needs will require engineering solutions of the future.
Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods
Carbon emissions have contributed to the change in global climates. Methods of sequestrating these pollutants must be developed.
Engineer Better Medicines
Engineering can enable the development of new systems to use genetic information, sense small changes in the body, assess new drugs, and deliver vaccines to provide health care directly tailored to each person.
Engineer the Tools for Scientific Discovery
For experiments and exploration to take place, tools, instruments, and systems will need to be developed to acquire new knowledge and make scientific advancements.
Enhance Virtual Reality
Within many specialized fields, from psychiatry to education, virtual reality is becoming a powerful new tool for training practitioners and treating patients, in addition to its growing use in various forms of entertainment.
Make Solar Energy Affordable
The sun is an abundant, low-pollution energy source. Currently, solar energy provides less than 1 percent of the world’s total energy, but it has the potential to provide much, much more.
Manage the Nitrogen Cycle
The nitrogen cycle is the process by which nitrogen is converted between plants, animals, bacteria, the atmosphere, and soil in the ground. All living things need nitrogen. Human-induced changes in the global nitrogen cycle pose engineering challenges just as critical as coping with the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels for energy.
Prevent Nuclear Terror
Engineering shares the formidable challenges of finding the dangerous nuclear material in the world, keeping track of it, securing it, and detecting its diversion or transport for terrorist use.
Provide Access to Clean Water
About 1 out of every 6 people living today do not have adequate access to water, and more than double that number lack basic sanitation, for which water is needed. It’s not that the world does not possess enough water; it is just not always located where it is needed.
Provide Energy from Fusion
Fusion is the energy source for the sun. The challenges facing the engineering community are to find ways to scale up the fusion process to commercial proportions, in an efficient, economical, and environmentally benign way.
Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure
Infrastructure is the combination of fundamental systems that support a community, region, or country. Society faces the formidable challenge of modernizing the fundamental structures that will support our civilization in centuries ahead.
Reverse-Engineer the Brain
A lot of research has been focused on creating thinking machines, computers capable of emulating human intelligence. However, reverse-engineering the brain could have multiple impacts that go far beyond artificial intelligence and will promise great advances in health care, manufacturing, and communication.
Computer systems are involved in the management of almost all areas of our lives; from electronic communications, and data systems, to controlling traffic lights to routing airplanes. It is clear that engineering needs to develop innovations for addressing a long list of cybersecurity priorities.