Logo: University of Southern California

Three National Academies of Engineering Launch First Global Summit on the Grand Challenges

The "Davos of engineering" is launched in London.
By: Conrad Wilton
April 08, 2013 —

At the first NAE Grand Challenges national summit at Durham, NC, in 2009, co-hosted by Duke University, Olin College and USC, the program ended with a groundbreaking idea: why not bring together some of the best engineering minds in the world to address some of the world's most intractable problems?

The following year, in the second national summit at USC, the theme was again echoed for an international global event.

The "Davos of engineering" idea came to pass March 11 to March 13, 2013 with the first-ever Global Summit in London.

The three-day event, co-sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), explored how innovative engineering can tackle global issues such as cyber-terrorism, urban pollution and the development of clean, renewable energy. The event was attended by 450 leading engineers, economists, designers, scientists, industry leaders, educators, policy makers and many students from across the globe.

A USC Viterbi delegation attended the event, featuring: Dean Yortsos; Louise Yates, senior associate dean for admissions and student affairs; Professor Andrea Armani (invited by the NAE); and three USC Viterbi students, Zach Gima, Aleena Byrne and Will McGarey.

The summit opened with a plenary address by renowned biologist and entrepreneur Craig Venter on synthetic biology. Microsoft founder Bill Gates closed the session via a weblink with a discussion on the challenges of the developing world. An impromptu panel appearance by Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas offered interesting insights on engineering outreach in K-12. In addition, experts in environmental sustainability, public health, life enrichment and other fields shared insights and led discussions with members of the audience.

The program, which Lockheed Martin and other entities sponsored, was designed by a committee of representatives from the RAE and the NAE, as well as Microsoft, the University of Cambridge, Duke University, Olin College and USC. In honor of the outgoing NAE President Chuck Vest, the summit closed with the announcement of the establishment of the Vest Scholarship Program. This new program will offer doctoral students from abroad the chance to study an NAE "Grand Challenge" at any of the program's eight founding American universities, which include USC, Duke, Caltech and MIT. For more information, go to vestscholars.org.

The day before the summit began, students from several universities, including USC Viterbi's Gima, Byrne and McGarey, participated in a business plan competition addressing some of the world's greatest challenges.

The next Global Summit will be held in Beijing, China in 2015.