Editor’s comment: Not all heroes wear capes...

02 April 2021

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

OK, not even all superheroes wear capes – but you get the idea. Over this last 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted plenty of everyday heroes, from the obvious doctors, nurses & care professionals, to teachers getting to grips with new ways of educating & motivating students, to the many different types of critical & frontline key workers, including those helping ensure utilities, transport networks, emergency services & even..

...essential retail can still function for the rest of us. Scientists too have emerged as heroes, developing vaccines at unprecedented speed...

A version of this editorial leader was originally featured in the April 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

But let’s talk about engineers. Regular readers will know that I have often highlighted engineers as heroes, as the work they do is so vital and evident in everyday life. Virtually every object and technology we use, as well as the built environment we live in, has been (at least to some extent) designed and built by engineers. And crucially, almost every grand challenge facing society will need engineers to help ultimately solve them.

And just like the scientists, the pandemic has shone a light on the vital role engineers play in solving problems and delivering solutions. Engineers have stepped up during this crisis: from answering the call to rapidly design, manufacture and test new ventilators, breathing aids and PPE, to helping develop ultrasensitive laser sensors that can detect coronavirus at the earliest point of infection from a saliva or nasal swab in just minutes.

World Engineering Day took place this year on 4th March 2021, under this year’s theme, ‘Engineering for A Healthy Planet, recognising the vital work that engineers need to do in addressing climate change and developing technologies for a carbon free economy. Ultimately, it is engineering innovations that will achieve these goals: engineers will make cities cleaner, more sustainable, smarter and liveable, ensuring that everyone has clean accessible water, sanitation systems, and affordable and reliable energy.

Back in 2010, UNESCO produced a comprehensive study on engineering, entitled ‘Engineering: Issues, Challenges & Opportunities for Development’. The report highlighted the importance of engineers to the socio-economic development of humankind, stating: “Engineering drives social, economic and human development and underpins our knowledge societies and infrastructures. It is a major factor in innovation and indeed the rise and fall of civilisations”.

World Engineering Day 2021

While some fundamental features of the engineers’ mission and responsibility remain, times have changed markedly in the 10 years since its publication. A second UNESCO Engineering Report, ‘Engineering for Sustainable Development: Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals’, was published on World Engineering Day, in the context of accelerating actions to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report highlights the crucial role of engineering in achieving each of the 17 SDGs. It shows how equal opportunities for all is key to ensuring a diverse, inclusive and gender-balanced profession that can better respond to the shortage of engineers for implementing the SDGs.

It provides a snapshot of the engineering innovations that are shaping our world, especially emerging technologies such as big data and AI, which are crucial for addressing the pressing grand challenges facing humankind and the planet. It analyses the transformation of engineering education and capacity-building at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will enable engineers to tackle the challenges ahead and highlights the global effort needed to address regional disparities.

Using case studies and potential solutions, the report reveals why engineering is crucial for sustainable development and why the role of engineers is vital in addressing basic human needs, such as alleviating poverty, supplying clean water and energy, responding to natural hazards, constructing resilient infrastructure, and bridging the development divide, leaving no one behind.

EPDT April 2021's issue also contains features on Power technologies and Automotive applications. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month...

Mark Gradwell

Editor


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