text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
News
design element
News
News From the Field
For the News Media
Special Reports
Research Overviews
NSF-Wide Investments
Speeches & Lectures
NSF Current Newsletter
Multimedia Gallery
News Archive
News by Research Area
Arctic & Antarctic
Astronomy & Space
Biology
Chemistry & Materials
Computing
Earth & Environment
Education
Engineering
Mathematics
Nanoscience
People & Society
Physics
 

Email this pagePrint this page


Press Release 08-028
Leading Engineers and Scientists Identify Advances That Could Improve Quality of Life Around the World

21st Century grand engineering challenges unveiled

Photo of solar panels

One of the grand engineering challenges seeks to make solar energy more affordable.
Credit and Larger Version

February 20, 2008

A diverse committee of experts from around the world, convened at the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), announced 14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century that, if met, would improve how we live.

"Tremendous advances in quality of life have come from improved technology in areas such as farming and manufacturing," said committee member and Google co-founder Larry Page. "If we focus our effort on the important grand challenges of our age, we can hugely improve the future."

The panel, some of the most accomplished engineers and scientists of their generation, was established in 2006 and met several times to discuss and develop the list of challenges. Through an interactive Web site, the effort received worldwide input from prominent engineers and scientists, as well as from the general public, over a one-year period. The panel's conclusions were reviewed by more than 50 subject-matter experts.

The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish -- sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability and increasing joy of living. The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Rather than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive.

"We chose engineering challenges that we feel can, through creativity and commitment, be realistically met, most of them early in this century," said committee chair and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry." Some can be, and should be, achieved as soon as possible."

The committee decided not to rank the challenges. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important and to provide comments at the project Web site -- <http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/>.

The Grand Challenges site features a five-minute video overview of the project along with committee member interview excerpts. A podcast of the news conference announcing the challenges will also be available on the site starting next week.

The Challenges:

  • Make solar energy affordable
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

The Committee:

William Perry (committee chair), former secretary of defense, U.S. Department of Defense, and Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor and professor of engineering, Stanford University

Alec Broers, chairman, Science and Technology Select Committee, United Kingdom House of Lords

Farouk El-Baz, research professor and director, Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University

Wesley Harris, department head and Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bernadine Healy, former director, U.S. National Institutes of Health, and health editor and columnist, U.S. News & World Report

W. Daniel Hillis, chairman and co-founder, Applied Minds Inc.

Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development, Harvard University

Dean Kamen, founder and president, DEKA Research and Development Corp.

Raymond Kurzweil, chairman and chief executive officer, Kurzweil Technologies Inc.

Robert Langer, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jaime Lerner, architect and urban planner, Instituto Jaime Lerner

Bindu Lohani, director general and chief compliance officer, Asian Development Bank

Jane Lubchenco, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology, Oregon State University

Mario Molína, Nobel laureate and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of California, San Diego

Larry Page, co-founder and president of products, Google Inc.

Robert Socolow, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Princeton University Environmental Institute

J. Craig Venter, president, The J. Craig Venter Institute

Jackie Ying, executive director, Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Josh Chamot, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7730, jchamot@nsf.gov
Randy Atkins, National Academy of Engineering, (202) 334-1508, atkins@nae.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/

 

Grand Challenges for Engineering
View Video
A panel of experts announced 14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century.
Credit and Larger Version



Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page