Webinar: Engineering and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The productivity difference or relative wealth gap between rich and poor countries has hardly shifted in decades. I will explain why neglecting engineering as a critical input has undermined efforts to close this gap.

Engineering educators have inadvertently contributed to this failure.

New research results point to solutions that could empower engineers to deliver long anticipated social and economic development in countries like India, Indonesia, Nigeria and China.

I will explain why implementing the global UN Sustainable Development goals like halting CO2 emissions requires these transformations in engineering and engineering education.

Wednesday, September 25 at 8 pm West Australian time; 5:30 pm India Standard Time; 12 pm GMT; 8 am US EDT.

Here is the recording: http://www.ifees.net/engineering-unsdgs/ (page has been deleted, unfortunately)

(Photo credit: Bill Wegener at unsplash.com)


Discussions on implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals have not, so far, addressed the crucial role of engineering. Achieving the goals will depend on large productivity increases in emerging economies, and engineers will be influential actors in that effort. However, neither engineering education nor contemporary definitions of engineering address the urgent need for productivity improvement: enabling people to achieving more with less human effort, energy, materials, uncertainty, health risks and environmental disturbances. It is possible that global slowing of productivity growth, particularly in advanced economies, could be associated with this oversight.

Extensive research on engineering practice in Australia, Brunei, India and Pakistan has shown how social culture and knowledge gaps make technical collaboration much more difficult in emerging economies, leading to high costs and low productivity. This research also identified a small number of expert engineers who have been able to create highly productive enterprises around them, despite these difficulties.

Deep structural issues in contemporary education limit the ability of universities to build on this research to improve engineering education. Education in workplaces could avoid these difficulties. The research is being applied to create a workplace education programme that could help novice and mid-career engineers learn from the experience of this small cohort of experts. Achieving the UN goals could well depend on how successfully such education programmes can improve engineering practice in emerging economies.

There are huge opportunities and rewards for engineers who can grasp new ideas on value generation, and overcome a hundred or more misconceptions about engineering practice that (mostly) inadvertently arise through contemporary engineering education programs. Engineering educators with the courage to learn about this research could be extremely influential in transforming their countries and overcoming barriers to social and economic development that lie in the minds of today’s engineers.

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