Exploring collaborative approaches to tackling global grand challenges

On the 12-13 March 2013, over 450 leading engineers, artists, economists, designers, philosophers, scientists, politicians, industry leaders, educators and policy makers from across the globe gathered in London to attend the inaugural Global Grand Challenges Summit.

With the prosperity of future generations relying on unprecedented levels of inter-disciplinary and international cooperation in pursuit of solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, the Summit, organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with the national engineering academies of the US and China, sought to provide a new global platform for the world’s leading thinkers to share their ideas with the next generation of engineers on how to develop the international frameworks, tools and collaborations needed to solve our common global challenges.

The audience of the two-day event heard from panels of leading experts in six different sessions covering the themes of sustainability, health, education, enriching life, technology and growth and resilience. The Summit also included plenary addresses from Dr Craig Venter, Founder of J. Craig Venter institute and Bill Gates, Co-founder and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and an additional surprise address from will.i.am on the need for new approaches to STEM education.

Speakers at the Summit included:

Professor Frances Arnold, Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at California Institute of Technology

Professor Dame Anne Dowling, Head of the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge

Professor Lord Darzi, Professor of Surgery at Imperial College London

Dr Regina Dugan, Senior Vice president of Motorola Mobility

Professor John Hennessy, President of Stanford University

Professor Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School

Dr Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT

Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Earth Institute at Columbia University

Professor Helen Storey, Co-founder of Catalytic Clothing, and Professor of Fashion and Science at University of Arts London (LCF at Centre for Sustainable Fashion)

Dr Mike Lynch, Founder of Invoke Capital

Dr Li Yingtao, President of the 2012 Laboratories, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd


Two major new international collaborative research opportunities, dedicated to the pursuit of tackling global grand challenges, were also announced at the Summit. Representatives from eight top US universities, including Duke University, USC and MIT, announced the establishment of the new Vest scholarship program. The program, named after outgoing National Academy of Engineering (NAE) President Charles M. Vest, will give select international graduate students the opportunity to pursue potentially world-changing ideas at top US universities.

Sir John Parker, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, also announced in his closing remarks a new £1-2 million joint international call from the EPSRC and the NSF, for proposals from UK and US research teams to work on tackling the grand challenge of providing clean water for all.

Download the GGCS report (1.75 MB)

View the Summit programme (5.42 MB)

Watch footage from the Summit

View cartoon images from the Summit (4.07 MB)