Global Grand Challenges Summit Inbox x

The fourth Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS) on the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering will be held September 12–18, 2019, in London, UK. It is being jointly organized by the NAE, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) and will be hosted by the RAEng.

An important part of each GGCS is student engagement. Each summit features a student team competition of innovation, design, and business development based on themes related to a major challenge facing society and the planet. Five student teams from each participating country (China, UK, and US) will propose ways to address aspects of the theme of this year’s summit, “Engineering in an Unpredictable World.” The teams will convene in London to compete, and then will be reassigned on site to mixed country teams for the final competition. This intercountry collaboration is an exciting new aspect of this year’s summit.

To determine the five finalists that will represent the United States at the London GGCS, teams will participate in a preliminary US-only competition in May. Additional details will be announced in early March. 


·        Interested teams must submit a letter of intent (LOI) through on online form describing the team, its composition, and selected topic (see below) and proposal title, and indicating the home institution and the names and email addresses of all team members. No abstract is needed at this time.The deadline for LOIs is February 18, 2019. 

·        Teams propose and develop a startup business model based on an idea/concept related to the competition topics listed below.

·        Each team has 4–6 undergraduate student members (each member must be a current student at the time of the summit).

·        Only one team will be selected from any given university. All team members must be from the same institution.

·        Each team designates as team leader a student who is actively involved in an engineering program, although students from other disciplines are strongly encouraged to be part of the team.

·        Each team must have at least one engineering mentor (or possibly two) who is willing to travel to the UK for the summit with the team.

Undergraduate student teams from schools with an NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) and those that signed the commitment letter to President Obama to develop a GCSP are especially encouraged to participate. Questions about the competition can be sent to

To apply, please submit information using the online formHERE

Competition Topics

Humanity is facing unprecedented challenges from a population that is predicted to grow to 10 billion by 2050 and is accelerating degradation of the planet and its resources. At the same time, exponential technological changes are making the world smarter, faster, and more connected, but with unanticipated consequences.

Engineers are crucial to international efforts to address these rapidly evolving, unpredictable challenges. We need to embed collaboration, diversity, and global responsibility into the solutions we create, transforming the way engineers work, think, and are taught.

In this context, the 2019 summit has two subthemes that relate to the NAE’s 14 Grand Challenges while recognizing and capturing the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

·        Will AI and other transformational technologies change humanity for the better?

o   Example topics: equitable access, ethics, health care, neuroscience, extending life, engineering education, automation, employment, genetics, robotics, mental health, unintended consequences, AI bias, secure cyberspace

·        Can we sustain 10 billion people?

o   Example topics: food, water, energy, waste, circular economy, urbanization, megacities, transport, resources, economic development, VR, health provision, digital enablement for rural dwellers

Teams are invited to propose an innovation or novel approach to address global challenges associated with these subthemes. As the two themes are broad, we expect teams to tackle one or more elements of a challenge rather than the entire subject. For example:

·        How do we feed 10 billion?

·        Is continued urbanization inevitable? desirable?

·        How can we achieve globally equitable access to technology?

·        How do we prevent global water shortages?

·        How do we incorporate more recycling as we innovate new products?

While the team’s proposal does not need to be a full-fledged startup business, we are looking for a rigorous entrepreneurial and design approach showing that the team moved beyond an initial idea or technology concept. The innovation must be viable with a clear route to growth and sustained impact, though it does not need to be a profit-making entity. Questions about the competition can be sent

If you do form a team, please let Jen Sans ( in the Undergraduate Programs Office and Abby Pakeltis know, so they can provide assistance.