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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 infrastructure(opens 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 roads(opens in new tab/window), bridges,(opens in new tab/window)water(opens in new tab/window)electrical(opens in new tab/window) and sewage systems(opens 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/window)in these countries.

3. Promoting green engineering(opens in new tab/window) to improve sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint in manufacturing(opens 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 dioxide(opens in new tab/window).

4. Identifying viable and renewable energy(opens in new tab/window) sources

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

5. Rethinking how the city(opens in new tab/window) looks and works

54% of the world’s population lives in cities. Europe leads the way in sustainability(opens 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 appealing(opens 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 cyberattacks(opens in new tab/window)

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

8. Addressing climate change (opens in new tab/window)through engineering innovation

Six of the 10 cities with the largest annual flood (opens in new tab/window)costs 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 innovations(opens 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? Food(opens in new tab/window) and water(opens 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, nanotechnology(opens in new tab/window) & bio-engineering(opens 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 drugs(opens in new tab/window).