In celebration of World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, VinZero focuses on how engineering is enabling the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) to be realized globally.
World Engineering Day background and history
Eight years ago, UN-Water launched the first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development (WEDSD) in 2014. The aim of this day was to raise awareness among engineers about their important role in addressing today’s water challenges as well as to showcase their achievements in promoting sustainable development. On this occasion, UN-Water called for nominations for best practices and good practices in water engineering. The winners were announced at the UN-Water Global Water Week Exhibition and Forum 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Since then, World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development is a global celebration of engineers and their contributions to sustainable development. World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development aims to encourage engineering students and professionals to take action that will improve the lives of people around the world. By raising awareness about engineering as an essential part of solving our most pressing problems. For example, a career in Agricultural Engineering involves designing, developing and improving farm machinery, equipment and technology to improve a farms efficiency. Agricultural engineering integrates innovative technology like AI with farming. It combines elements of mechanical, civil, electrical, and chemical engineering with agricultural principles. To become an Agricultural Engineer in Australia, certain attributes are important including having an aptitude for computing and design.
World Engineering Day provides an opportunity for all engineers to share their knowledge and expertise with others, to improve the lives of people around the world. It also serves as an opportunity to celebrate engineers who have made significant contributions to society through their work. This year's theme highlights how engineering can be used to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity today, including climate change and environmental degradation, access to clean water and energy security.
The importance of engineering the Sustainable Development Goals is outlined in the UNESCO report from 2021 and is intended ‘’to serve as a reference for governments, engineering organizations, academia and educational institutions and industry to forge global partnerships and catalyze collaboration in engineering so as to deliver on the SDGs’’. The report refers to the time we are as ‘the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and explains why the role of engineers is so crucial in addressing basic humans needs, responding to natural disasters, planning for resilience and security as well as supporting industry on the journey to net zero. A focus of the report is to ensure that engineering is an inclusive and gender -balanced profession - something which is also strongly supported at this time each year with the recognition of Women In Construction week.
What does an Engineer do?
Engineers are practitioners of engineering. They are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build, and test machines, complex systems, structures, gadgets, and materials to fulfill functional objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost. Engineers also do research which is divided into basic and applied research with most engineers being used in applied research.
What is Sustainable Development?
It is ‘’development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’’. This phrase was originally used by Norway’s first female Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland in the Brundtland Commission Report, 1987 and later adopted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development to give policy makers the knowledge to act. We are now into the decade of action moving quickly towards 2030 with only seven years left to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Engineers are at the new frontiers in technology applied to sustainable development.
SDG 1 No poverty
Driving economic growth through the provision of basic infrastructure to improve basic services such as clean water and sanitation and clean cooking fuels is one of the ways the field of engineering supports the SDG of no poverty.
In India, a young engineer, @Yash Palmer developed a clean and safe cooking device called AUFLA that is quick, convenient and preserves the taste and quality of the food. The device is an electric pressure cooker which uses local raw materials and local advanced manufacturing of prototypes inspired by cooking devices used in China. Yash was featured in the Global Leader awards and won the prize in energy efficiency innovation. MIT-WPU celebrates Yash’s success and responds to this award here encouraging young engineers to have hope and be patient as budding entrepreneurs.
Yash Palmer, Global Leap Award Winner 2020
SDG 2 Zero hunger
Digital technology is supporting our agricultural engineers with innovation around the logistics system, waste management and food security. Food waste and loss can be addressed by digitalization to improve the overall efficiency of the entire agri-food system. Innovation around this challenge is emerging in China and in parts of Africa. Reducing food waste requires a re-engineering of the logistics system that moves food from farm to fork. The FAO in China launched a university competition to explore the role of digital technology in supporting smart agriculture last year. The FOA in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), are developing the potential of youth and women in the agri-preneurship using digitalization. In February 2023, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) offered a webinar on Digital Agriculture: Driving Digital Transformation for Food Security.
Engineering for change is researching threatened food systems and answers could lie in using Microscopic Algae as food, feed or for crop support. The article explains that there are five applications of Microalgae that can be used in food supplements to address malnutrition and build resilience of crops to climate related stresses like elevated temperatures, water scarcity and soil salinity. It can be distinguished from pant for animal production in that it is largely independent of local weather patterns and could potentially recycle water.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers highlights a new hybrid passive thermal system for greenhouses that is more efficient and holds heat longer than existing systems. It is low cost and accessible to low socioeconomic communities. It helps to extend the growing season and its low cost makes it attractive for use in developing nations.
SDG 3 Good health and wellbeing
The Covid -19 pandemic has emphasized the need for innovation in engineering using advanced technologies in manufacturing processes, logistics, 3D -printing for personal protective equipment and transportation systems. Engineering has eradicated disease such as typhoid and cholera through clean water and sanitation.
In India, non-communicable diseases or NCDs disproportionately affect the poor and rural middle class. One demographic that are at high risk for NCDs are drivers in the trucking sector due to unhygienic living conditions, poor diets and heavy alcohol and drug consumption, exposure to vehicular exhaust and other forms of pollution resulting from India’s industrialization. This is a challenge that software engineering can alleviate through innovation.
SDG 4 Quality Education
Online education is made possible through the work of our software engineers who are constantly employing new technologies to improve accessibility and costs for students. Information is being delivered more efficiently than ever before though advances and development of software. Technology plays an important role in the STEM learning process. It is predicted that approximately 75 percent of all new jobs will require qualification and skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Engineers Australia CEO, Romilly Madew AO, says
“Infrastructure Australia forecasts labor demand in 2023 to grow by 42,000 to a peak of 442,000, more than doubling the projected available supply. Australia needs to explore new and innovative ways to build its engineering capability, including how we support migrant engineers’’.
The University of Technology in Sydney is currently calling for women to apply for scholarships in Engineering and IT.
SDG 5 Gender Equality
Gender diversity is celebrated within the Engineering field globally. The Institution of Engineering and Technology has a prestigious award honoring the best early career women engineers working in the UK today. Ama Frimpong and Eneni Bambara-Abban were among the winners in 2022.
Ama Frimpong, Medical Device engineer is the Head of Product Development at 52 North Health. Ama manages the company’s engineering teams in the development of NeutroCheck®, which is a low-cost, portable device that helps identify people living with cancer who are at risk of neutropenic sepsis - a life-threatening medical emergency occurring in immunosuppressed chemotherapy patients.
LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/52north/
Eneni Bambara-Abban, Robotics Engineer is the founder of two organizations, the Techover Foundation and Anime and Chill. The Techover Foundation is an international NGO that focuses on encouraging, educating and supporting individuals from underserved communities into technology. Anime and Chill is a safe and inclusive community of people interested in anime and/or gaming to come together and network irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or race.
SGD 6 Clean Water and Sanitation
Sanitary engineering is also known as public health engineering or wastewater engineering involving the application of engineering methods to improve sanitation of human communities, primarily by removing and disposing of human waste in addition to the supply of safe potable water.
The Impact Accelerator | WaterAid Australia is creating sanitation solutions by bring the best engineering minds together in sanitation to create scalable solutions in countries where sanitation is poor and clean water does not exist. In 2022, the Annual innovation in Sanitation Award went to the CARE Madagascar team at The Rural Access to New Opportunities to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (RANO WASH).
SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
The UCI School of Engineering featured an article in 2022 outlining how the US will leverage its scale and procurement power with a commitment to investing in clean energy innovation focusing on strategic research areas like clean transportation, clean industrial processes and clean materials. Over the past few years mechanical engineers have looked at improving the design of wind turbines, solar and geothermal power, and every stage of renewal energy development. Since 2017 the renewable energy sector has seen considerable growth, from advances in technology to new sources of energy, demonstrating the global shift to clean energy. As the renewable market matures, there will be more opportunities for mechanical engineers to address the problem of renewable energy storage, one of the key areas that represents both challenges and opportunities for renewable energy engineering today.
SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Economic growth can be directly correlated to engineering achievements in design of capital infrastructure in roads, water, rail and for the Built Environment. Engineers contribute in a significant way towards a sustainable Built Environment by facilitating inclusive and resilient cities, access to affordable housing, public transport, clean air, water and energy as well as the protection of our natural and cultural heritage assets. Advancement in engineering for sustainable development creates jobs and economic growth.
As a case in point, the Italian Rail Network (RFI) has awarded a collaboration between Impresa Pizzarotti and Saipem to build the new Florence Belfiore underground high-speed station. The new 8km link will be constructed using artificial intelligence, digitalization and machine learning models which leverage geotechnical and engineering methods. The entire 8 Km project will be mostly built underground and be optimized by automating processes, reducing costs and monitoring risk factors to improve safety.
DG 9 Industry Innovation and Infrastructure
Similar to SDG 8, a modern economy relies on engineers to design build, maintain and solve infrastructure system challenges. In Japan, the JSCE Innovative Technique Award for reinforcing existing steel bridges to extend the life and increase resistance to earthquakes was given to a team of engineers, a collaboration between the Railway Technical Research Institute and TOKYU Construction Co., LTD in 2021.
SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities
New technologies enable access to safer work environment and reduced inequalities at work. Accessibility in transport systems is essential to help reduce inequalities by providing easy access to key services such as education, employment, goods and retail. Engineers are helping to broaden accessibility to include all people in the design of infrastructure. New York and Las Vegas are among the 10 most accessible cities in the world for people with disabilities with Singapore at the top of the list and Toyko as number 10.
SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
Engineers have been at the forefront of sustainability efforts in the Built Environment for decades. The International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB) has developed an extensive publication on green building design which sets out some of the key issues facing engineers working on these developments. In addition to providing an overview of some of the challenges faced by engineers working in this area it also provides direction on how to overcome them through innovation and collaboration with other professionals from across industry sectors. The publication's six chapters cover topics ranging from defining what makes a "green building" to exploring emerging technologies for sustainable building design including waste-to-energy facilities and solar panels.
In 2021, CABE recognized Dr. Penny Carey who received the Sustainability Award as the leader on innovation engineering services and building environmental engineering solutions for the UK ‘s first Passivhaus Classic health center. The project is a ‘’proof-of concept project that will be used to promote environmental advantages for the future of National Health Service estate projects’’.
LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/portakabin-ltd/
Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/Portakabin_R?s=20
SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production
Australia's Sims Limited is a global leader in circularity ranked in the Top Twenty, at number 14 on the 2023 Global list of most sustainable companies in the world. Sims Metal, and each of its business divisions, especially the engineering department, play an integral role in the circular economy by making resources available for future use.
As the global leader in metal recycling, and data center IT circularity, and with a purpose to create a world without waste to preserve the planet, it is driven to constantly innovate and offer new solutions in the circular economy for consumers, businesses, governments and communities around the world. Listen to Blaise Porter, Sustainability & CSR Director
SDG 13 Climate Action
Engineering is raising the bar for climate action by new solutions in all areas of renewable energy, manufacturing and infrastructure design.
MIT in the United States has announced the winners of the inaugural MCSC Seed Awards for Climate and Sustainability. Innovations must be scalable to deserve the award and the award recognized 20 projects run by research engineering teams at the university.
“The MCSC Seed Awards are designed to complement actions previously outlined in Fast Forward: MIT’s Climate Action Plan for the Decade and, more specifically, the Climate Grand Challenges,” says Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering, Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and chair of the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium. “In collaboration with seed award recipients and MCSC industry members, we are eager to engage in interdisciplinary exploration and propel urgent advancements in climate and sustainability.”
LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/school/mit/
Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/MIT?s=20
SDG 14 Below the Water
The UNESCO reports says that Engineers have a vital role in preserving and protecting the world's oceans and seas and the life they support. Marine engineers work together with scientists and other engineering disciplines to address the degradation of fisheries, the pollution of oceans and the use of resources, including wave energy. Engineers are coming up with solutions to address challenges such as fertilizer and plastic pollution in oceans and managing ocean assets such as the Great Barrier Reef that are threatened by the impacts of climate change.
The Marine Engineering Award was awarded to UK small business, Feritech, in March 2023 for their most recent innovation taking both a sustainability and holistic approach to design and how they are contributing to drive wider progress in the green economy.
Feritech Managing Director, Rob Ferris, said: "This is fabulous recognition for all the hard work our team has put into planning and building our new Innovation Centre as well as the other environmental initiatives we are taking''.
The £3m purpose-built innovation center has a number of 'special' features including:
The site harvests its own water, from boreholes that Feritech has drilled.
It has a state-of-the-art solar roof, combined with on-site power storage, and uses air source heating for the offices.
Feritech has planted 3,000 trees, to help blend with the rural location and promote biodiversity.
A pond captures the surface run-off from the site, creating a heat store and providing new wildlife habitats.
Rather than metal fences, Feritech planted 5,500 hawthorn bushes, making a natural, maintenance-free barrier.
The building is designed so that there is no light pollution or noise pollution.
LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/feritech-limited/
Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/feritech
SDG 15 Life on Land
Environmental engineers are responsible for preservations of habitats, forestry reserves and managing biodiversity through sustainable practices. Geospatial technology is a tool that allows environmental engineers access to information for infrastructure design and agricultural monitoring. With Graphic Information Systems (GIS), data is captured and stored related to positions on the Earth's surface and by studying relationship and patterns scientists can design to support nature and society to live in harmony.
Digital technology is transforming life on land and supports collaboration across all stakeholders in large scale engineering projects. In Australia, North East Water received the Esri award in recognition of their digital transformation project building a first-of-its-kind intelligent water network, providing a digital and scalable view of more than 300,000 assets such as pipes and sewer lines. To hear more about the digital transformation project, check out this