The GGCS two weeks on: What’s next?

It has been two weeks since the inaugural Global Grand Challenges Summit took place in London, and I am still in awe of everything I saw and heard as well as of everyone that I had the pleasure of meeting. With over 500 of today’s world leaders in engineering, politics, research, policy, education, economics, design, development and industry gathering in London to discuss how we address the grand challenges that we all face, it is little wonder as to why I am still whirring  a couple of weeks on.

In my opinion, the Summit, which was jointly devised by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the (US) National Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering over a year ago, achieved so much more than just a superficial discussion – it was a stark debate about how the global engineering community should go about solving our most pressing challenges, with sessions both exploring the bigger pictures, such as how to overcome the political inertia surrounding many development issues, as well as the showcasing of new technological innovations already being developed, like those taking place in personalised medicine.

With such a wide range of topics and speakers all in one place, the Summit had many messages and identified many significant opportunities for progress on the grand challenges. Out of everything, however, the main message that I took home was the need for engineers to engage – engage more with each other, engage more with other disciplines and engage more with other countries. If we are to meet the challenges that we all face, should we all aspire to be a little bit more like Leonardo di Vinci or perhaps even channel our inner

The RAEng plans on harnessing the momentum from the Summit by taking forward several actions from the event, including the creation of an online resource for engineering thought leadership – I would be very interested to hear of any other actions inspired by the Summit, as well as hearing your own views on what the take home messages from the Summit were. I invite you all to comment below…

By Eleanor Hood

International Assistant at the Royal Academy of Engineering

(These are my own views and not necessarily those held by the Royal Academy of Engineering)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BEST SUMMIT EVER! Thank you to everyone who made it so special – Let’s keep the momemtum going!

OJ7_7256 OJ7_7161 OJ7_7082 OJ7_7075 OJ7_7026 OJ7_7009 OJ7_6976 OJ7_6896 DSC_5964 DSC_5672 DSC_0287 DSC_0184 DSC_0140 DSC_0121  DSC_5077 DSC_5102 DSC_9742 DSC_5038OJ7_6618 OJ7_6385 OJ7_6405 OJ7_6516 DSC_9892 OJ7_6491 DSC_5567 DSC_5548 OJ7_6834 OJ7_6572 OJ7_6266 OJ7_7171

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Health session comment piece: Professor Ara Darzi on his GGCS appearance on ‘Engineering Surgery’

Engineering Surgery 

Lord DarziThis lecture, titled ‘Engineering Surgery’, will provide an insight into the technological innovation that can be used to address rising global healthcare issues and the need to continue to nurture multidisciplinary research, from the view of a practising surgeon, Professor Ara Darzi. His portfolio of research spans the development of state of the art surgical robotics to low cost high impact technologies such as safety checklists and affordable simulation and research to inform robust health policy making. He will provide an overview of pioneering work in the advancement of minimally invasive surgery and, the use of allied technologies including surgical robots and image-guided surgery in use around the world today. The need for integration of haptic feedback and tracking, development of smaller and flexible instrumentation, and improved peri-operative monitoring will be discussed.

by Professor Ara Darzi – GGCS health session speaker and panellist

Professor of Surgery, Imperial College London

Image: Robotic assisted surgery – Imperial College London


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Technology and growth session: “Academics need connections in places they didn’t know” – Dr Margaret Anne Craig

Margaret Anne CraigIn order to get great research to products, academics need connections in places they didn’t know. They need active encouragement and confidence to step into the commercial world. The skills and mentorship largely don’t exist or aren’t part of a universities extensive network.

There is a true need for advisors and the government could help fund a high class, probably expensive team of skilled seasoned professionals who can act as mentors, chairmen and accelerators. We entrepreneurs do waste a lot of time making connections and missing chances. It’s a simple thought but from personal experience would be a major help.

To the final point, as Bill Gates said in his recent Dimbleby lecture on a subject which is right in my sphere, innovation intrinsically betters the human lot none more so than in healthcare. Drug discovery is arguably one of the most important research activities helping the wealthy and poor in the world. Clyde Biosciences has an innovated solution to remove 20 percent of drug discovery costs and in addition will give the next level of safety assurance. In commercial terms it will allow millions of dollars to be saved that will allow more people, helped by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the world’s biggest charity, stay alive and well and contribute themselves to mankind.

by Dr Margaret Anne Craig – GGCS Technology and growth session panellist

Chief Executive Officer at Clyde Biosciences

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resilience session comment peice: New Challenges for Water Security by Professor Jianyun Zhang

New Challenges for Water Security

zhangjianyunWater-related disasters represent the most frequent and most damaging natural disasters affecting human society. Environmental changes, including climate change, population increase, rapid social and economic development, and impacts of human activities on land use, bring enormous challenges for water security to human society, which attract global attention and call for joint solution.

Water Issues

Affected by the southeast monsoon and special topography in China, annual precipitation varies from more than 2000mm to less than 20mm from southeast regions to northwest areas. The uneven spatial and temporal distribution of water resources brings serious water issues in China, where water-related disasters take about 74% of all natural disasters. The mean economic loss produced directly by floods has taken about 1.8% of GDP in same term since 1990, and meanwhile, the economic loss caused by droughts was about 1.0-2.0% of GDP in same term, depending on yearly precipitation. Therefore, water security is a bigger issue in China.

New Challenges

Under changing environments, water security becomes more serious in the word. The following trends have been observed in China. Firstly, it seemed that more frequent floods occurred in south regions, especially in the Pearl River, the Yangtze River, and the Huaihe River, and resulted in huge losses. For example, about 1562 people died and economic loss reached up to 200 billion Chinese Yuan( 1US$ is about 6.6 Chinese Yuan) due to the floods occurred in the Yangtze River in 1998. Moreover, the rising of sea-level with global warming, will reduce the defense ability against flood along coast areas. Secondly, the shortage and conflicts of water resources become more intense. In last 3 decades, the runoff of most north rivers declined markedly. For example, the annual amounts of surface water resources in the Yellow River and the Haihe River have reduced by 14.5% and 40.8% respectively since 1980 (compared with the time-series of 1950-1979). Thirdly, the extreme events present an increasing trend. It seemed that we had more urban storm floods in last 20 years. For instance, the heavy storm floods occurred in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012, in Beijing city. Especially, the storm flood happened in July 21, 2012, caused a mortality of 79 people. In addition, violent typhoons also display a trend of increasing both in number and intensity. All these changes will definitely bring us new challenges and crises on water security.

What Should We Do?

In response to these new challenges, it is necessary to fully understand the changes and their trends. We also need infrastructures with higher standards, such as more robust flood prevention engineering (river dykes, reservoirs, and flood retention basins), and powerful management system, including monitoring system, forecasting system and decision supporting system, to reduce the risk of floods and to ensure water supply.

by Professor Jianyun Zhang – GGCS resilience session speaker and panellist

President of the Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resilience session comment piece: Arups’ Jo da Silva shares her views about the need for creating resilient communities

Jo_da_SilvaThe frequency and impact of disasters is increasing, whether measured by loss of life or economic costs. This trend is set to continue as the risks associated with climate change are compounded by rapid urbanisation and environmental degradation. In 2010, 300 million people were affected by disasters, and according to recent studies, the number of people living in cities that are vulnerable to earthquakes and cyclones will treble by 2050[1].  There are also over 30 million people who are currently displaced, having fled conflict or persecution[2].  Estimates claim that by 2050, 200 million more migrants may be fleeing the effects of climate change[3].  Our collective ability to reduce the risk of disaster will increasingly define the 21st century, requiring civil engineers to recognise their role in enabling communities to survive as well as to thrive.

The last 30 years has seen increasing acknowledgement of the vital role that engineers play in humanitarian response providing clean water, sanitation and shelter, and the roads, bridges and buildings needed to facilitate delivery of food and medical supplies. Over the same period advances in science and technology have enabled us to better predict the forces of nature, and construct taller and more complex structures that are able to better withstand extreme events. Yet the uncertainties of climate change and the pace of urbanisation challenge the ‘predict and prevent’ paradigm that has underpinned geo-hazard engineering to date, whilst recent disasters have emphasised the limitations of international response. A new approach is required which prioritises creating resilient communities which are able to respond and adapt to changing circumstances and unexpected catastrophes.

by Jo da Silva – GGCS resilience session Keynote speaker and panellist

Director of International Development, Arup

[1] Proceedings of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and World Reconstruction Conference 2011
[2] Internal Displacement (2010) Global Overview of trends and Development in 2009 IDMC/NRC.
[3] International Organization for Migration (2008) Migration and Climate Change. IOM: Geneva.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Education session comment piece: “Education is not about filling a pail, it is about lighting a fire” – Dean Kamen

If we are to meet our global challenges, we need to educate a new generation of engineers who are more representative of our society, and have a portfolio of skills and attributes which go beyond traditional engineering curricula.  To meet these needs, pioneering schools, universities and charities are re-examining some of the fundamental concepts of engineering education: including cherished notions of what a discipline consists of, what a university looks like, and what an engineer does. A panel of engineering education stakeholders will offer insights from their own experiences, and debate the risks and rewards of the upcoming revolution in engineering education.

Dean KamenEducation is not about filling a pail, it is about lighting a fire. As we look to create the next generation of science and technology leaders, we need to focus on how to inspire kids. We need to encourage students to look at big problems and imagine equally big solutions.

Inevitably, when people discuss the shortage of engineers, they focus on the need for new books, or new curriculum, or new teachers. But in doing so, they ignore underlying cultural problems that need to be addressed.

Science, technology, problem solving, and inventing is actually more accessible and more fun than any sport or anything in Hollywood that seems to have disproportionately captured student’s attention. But kids aspire to emulate their idols, and when LeBron James and Justin Bieber dominate pop culture and social media, student’s goals reflect their frame of reference.

This is why I started FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, a program that encourages students to pursue STEM careers through robotics competitions, with the help of mentors and leaders in STEM fields. And FIRST works. This year FIRST will serve more than 300,000 young people, in more than 60 countries around the globe. Studies have shown that FIRST alumni are highly motivated to pursue careers in science and engineering.

If we are to meet our global challenges and inspire a new generation of engineers and entrepreneurs, we must first capture the minds and imaginations of young scientists and innovators.

by Dean Kamen – GGCS education session panellist

Founder of FIRST

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment