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Fact sheet

10 major engineering challenges of the next decade

Challenges related to climate change continue to threaten the world's population. But solutions exist, and engineers will play a major role in solving them. Here are 10 major challenges and what engineers can do about them in 2023.

1. Upgrading the aging U.S. infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our aging infrastructureopens in new tab/window a C- grade and estimates that the U.S. is spending just over half of what is needed. Significant action is needed to bring our roadsopens in new tab/window, bridges,opens in new tab/window wateropens in new tab/windowelectricalopens in new tab/window and sewage systemsopens in new tab/window to proper safe working order.

2. Educating first world engineers to understand how to solve third world problems

The Renewable Resources Journal reports that the world’s population will grow by two billion over the next two decades, 95% of this in developing or underdeveloped countries. Engineers must learn new ways to solve problems opens in new tab/windowin these countries.

3. Promoting green engineeringopens in new tab/window to improve sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint in manufacturingopens in new tab/window

According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, manufacturing in the U.S. produced 19,237 trillion BTUs and 1,071 million metric tons of carbon dioxideopens in new tab/window.

4. Identifying viable and renewable energyopens in new tab/window sources

The contributions to our energy production from renewables opens in new tab/windowand other new fuelopens in new tab/window sources are growing at 6% per year according to BP and will contribute 45% of the increment in energy productionopens in new tab/window by 2035.

5. Rethinking how the cityopens in new tab/window looks and works

54% of the world’s population lives in cities. Europe leads the way in sustainabilityopens in new tab/window, with seven out of the world’s top 10 most sustainable cities, according to the ARCADIS Sustainable Cities Index.

6. Making STEM more appealingopens in new tab/window to young students

By 2018, the United States will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs. Meanwhile, according to a UCLA study, 40% of students enrolled as STEM majors switched subjects or failed to get a degree.

7. Safeguarding our personal data and wealth from cyberattacksopens in new tab/window

34% of data breaches happen at financial institutions; 11% target retail companies; while 13% target government institutionsopens in new tab/window, according to the 2014 Data Breach Investigation Report.

8. Addressing climate change opens in new tab/windowthrough engineering innovation

Six of the 10 cities with the largest annual flood opens in new tab/windowcosts by 2050 are in India and China. Three are in the U.S.: New York, Miami and New Orleans.

9. Feeding our growing population through cutting-edge bio-engineering and agricultural innovationsopens in new tab/window

The U.N. warns that we must produce 60% more food by 2050 to keep up with demand, but how do we do this sustainably? Foodopens in new tab/window and wateropens in new tab/window access will be major issues in the future, and research must begin now.

10. Improving our health and well-being through life sciences, nanotechnologyopens in new tab/window & bio-engineeringopens in new tab/window

Administration on Aging, by 2060 the population of Americans aged 65 and older will have more than doubled in size from 2011. This puts a lot of pressure on new drug creation and also on innovative engineering techniques to deliver drugsopens in new tab/window.