The following list of challenges facing the engineering field was compiled in 2018 by global information analytics firm Elsevier.
1. Upgrading the sagging United States infrastructure
The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the aging U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade. The Society estimates that $3.6 trillion dollars must be invested by 2020 to bring U.S. roads, bridges, water, electrical, and sewage system to safe working order and standards.
2. Educating first world engineers to understand how to solve third world problems
According to the Renewable Resources Journal, the world population will grow by two billion over the next two decades, with 95% of the growth occurring in developing or underdeveloped countries. The challenge that this fact presents for engineers: they must find new and innovative ways to solve problems and address issues in these countries.
3. Promoting green engineering to improve sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint in manufacturing
The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy reports that the U.S. manufacturing industry produced 19,237 BTUs and 1,071 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
4. Identifying viable alternative energy sources
According to the British multinational oil and gas company BP plc, formerly ‘British Petroleum,’ contributions to energy production from renewables and other new fuel sources are growing at 6% per year and will contribute 45% of the increment in energy production by 2035.
5. Rethinking how cities look and work
54% of the world’s population lives in cities. According to ARCADIS Sustainable Cities Index seven of the world’s top 10 most sustainable cities are in Europe.
6. Making STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) more appealing to young students
As of the beginning of 2018, the United States had 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs. A UCLA study revealed that 40% of students enrolled as STEM majors switched subjects or failed to earn a degree.
7. Safeguarding personal data and personal wealth from cyberattacks
According to the 2017 Data Breach Investigation Report, 24% of data breaches affected financial institutions; 15% involved healthcare organizations; 12% targeted public sector entities; and15% involved the retail and accommodation sectors.
8. Addressing climate change through engineering innovation
By 2050, six of the 10 cities with the largest annual flood costs will be in Indian and China. Three will be in the United States: New York, Miami, and New Orleans.
9. Feeding the growing world population through cutting-edge bio-engineering and agricultural innovations
The United Nations warns that by 2050 world food production must increase by 60% to keep up with demand. The challenge is to reach this goal in a sustainable way and ensure food and water access.
10. Improving health and well-being through life sciences, nanotechnology, and bio engineering
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 on engineering techniques to deliver drugs.