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In the century that just ended, engineering recorded its grandest accomplishments. The widespread development and distribution of electricity and clean water, automobiles and airplanes, radio and television, spacecraft and lasers, antibiotics and medical imaging, and computers and the Internet are just some of the highlights from a century in which engineering revolutionized and improved virtually every aspect of human life.

For all of these advances, though, the century ahead poses challenges as formidable as any from millennia past. As the population grows and its needs and desires expand, the problem of sustaining civilization’s continuing advancement, while still improving the quality of life, looms more immediate.

In forming the Grand Challenges for Engineering committee, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) sought leading thinkers with a wide range of expertise and experience. The committee’s task was to identify the grand challenges for engineering (problems and opportunities) facing those born at the dawn of this new century.

The 14 Grand Challenges were announced in early 2008. The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation and brought together a diverse group of thinkers dedicated to improving quality of life around the globe.  To learn more visit //


14 Grand Challenges

1. Make solar energy economical
2. Provide energy from fusion
3. Provide access to clean water
4. Reverse-engineer the brain
5. Advance personalized learning
6. Develop carbon sequestration methods
7. Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
8. Restore and improve urban infrastructure
9. Advance health informatics
10. Prevent nuclear terror
11. Engineer better medicines
12. Enhance virtual reality
13. Manage the nitrogen cycle
14. Secure cyberspace