10 global challenges the world will face in the next 25 years – according to engineers

Securing cyberspace, economical clean energy, sustaining land and oceans, and sustainable and resilient infrastructure were listed as the top four challenges facing the world in the next 25 years, according to a global survey of engineers.

To celebrate the first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, DiscoverE, in partnership with UNESCO and the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, conducted a global survey of engineers to take the pulse of the profession.

The survey focused on the future of engineering, and asked about global challenges and the profession’s confidence in addressing them.

Securing cyberspace was listed as the most daunting global challenge the world will face over the next 25 years. However, 64.2 per cent of respondents were optimistic that this challenge is solvable.

The top 10 global challenges identified by respondents are:

  1. Securing cyberspace
  2. Economical clean energy
  3. Sustaining land and oceans
  4. Sustainable and resilient infrastructure
  5. Sustainable cities
  6. Access to clean water and sanitation
  7. Clean air
  8. Food security
  9. Preparing for and containing pandemics
  10. Developing and delivering better medicines

Respondents were most optimistic about being able to develop and deliver better medicines, while they were least optimistic about sustaining lands and oceans.

What are the limiting factors to solving these challenges? The majority of respondents felt the biggest hurdle is lack of necessary support from government and policy makers. Others felt the necessary technologies have not yet been developed, there is too little collaboration between disciplines, and there is not enough public support for innovative engineering solutions.

From future challenges to ‘futuristic’, survey respondents listed space travel, artificial intelligence and transportation as the areas where science fiction-like advances will make their way into reality.

Respondents had several suggestions for the ‘out there’ advancements that will reshape the world in the next 25 years, including vehicles for personal space travel, artificially intelligent service robots, self-driving vehicles, solar-powered flight and energy-efficient high-speed rail.

Future problem-solvers

A global shortage of engineering talent was also a concern for respondents: 54 per cent thought there is a current shortage of engineers, and 54 per cent see a shortage of engineers in the future.

These extended to technologists and technicians: 60 per cent of respondents said there is currently a shortage of both roles, and 58 per cent said this will be the case in the future.

Perhaps as a sign of engineers’ interest in reversing this trend, 95.8 per cent of respondents said it is important or very important to volunteer with students and get future generations excited about the profession.

More than 10,000 engineers, technologists and technicians responded to the survey. The top disciplines represented were Electrical/electronic engineering and computer science, followed by mechanical, civil and aviation/aerospace.

Read the full survey response here.