International Cooperation



Reflections of the Proposed Suggestions on the Topic of Engineering for Sustainable Development

  • Published: Jan 11, 2022
  • Source: ICEE
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—Edward F. Crawley Makes the Summary of Comments for the 2021 ICEE Governing Board and Advisory Board Meeting

On December 8, 2021, the 2021 ICEE Governing Board and Advisory Board Meeting was held at Tsinghua University. The members of the Governing Board and Advisory Board had in-depth discussions on the ICEE 2021 annual work report. Prof. Edward F. Crawley, Co-Director of the Advisory Board of ICEE, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), made the concluding remarks for the Board meeting, followed by a summary of comments later on another day after that. The reviews were summarized from five aspects: engineering report, high-level trends, research, education and partnership. This newsletter is organized based on the summary of comments.

Prof. Edward F. Crawley

The Report

Congratulations on the tremendous accomplishment achieved in publishing the Engineering Report. It has been well received and will be impactful. It is important that it is not just about technology but also about human interaction, including engineering education. We must consider the report in context of Universities as Engines of Economic Development, which is the title of my recent book on the topic.

We are now in the new era of how to implement the recommendations in the report. First I would consider calling it the decadal report to set the expectations that it be done every 10 years. A set of events, mostly on-line, would further raise awareness of the report.

Action – consider follow-on monitoring and tracking of outcomes that align with the recommendations in the report.

High-level Trends

There are three high-level trends that are present in many of the discussion points and recommendations of the committee:

  • - We should build a stronger linkage between engineering education and reaching the UN SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals.

  • - We should exploit digital learning, particularly its role in quickly migrating knowledge from research to taught education.

  • - We should do better at teaching for learning – particularly project-based learning to address the need for “more engineers with the right skills.”


The benchmarking studies funded by CAE are important. The fact that three books were published in 2021 is a remarkable accomplishment. Important new questions are: what have we learned about engineering education from our use of emergency digital education? And what can we now do that we couldn’t do a few years ago?

Action – consider bringing together those developing engineering education PhD programs to discuss these and other educational research questions.


There was a wide range of advice on education. Critically, we should develop approaches to teaching how engineers can help to reach the SDGs. The engineering report says “engineering innovations are crucial to achieving the SDGs” and “engineering education and capacity building as key to enabling engineering to achieve the SDGs.” Gender equity and other dimensions of inclusion should be addressed. The Report says “engineering itself needs to transform to become more innovative, inclusive, cooperative and responsible.” In most fields and nations, engineering needs more women. Case studies done by societies will help.

The boundaries of engineering education need to expand: links to medicine and art were discussed. We need to develop more interdisciplinary education, to meet the needs for system thinkers and system engineers. Ethics must be considered, especially in AI and bioengineering. Consider making more use of MOOCs, and technology like high-bandwidth communications networks.

Action - Benchmark SDG related educational efforts around the world, and convene forums to share best practices - especially on climate education.


Develop a set of strategic partnerships for “fostering engineering development in the regions.” Consider targeting certain regions, particularly in southern Africa. Inter-regional issues were also identified as key.

The range of partnerships can be expanded in the UN framework to develop relationships with the SDG group and other UNESCO Centres. ICEE needs to build stronger partnerships with industry and the professional societies, and to make contacts with think tanks.

Action - Coordinate with the UN group developing science and technology for the SDGs.

ICEE will listen attentively to the summary of comments made by Prof. Edward F. Crowley and will integrate the work of ICEE in 2022 effectively and integrate engineering education with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the New Year, ICEE will actively play its role as a UNESCO Category II Centre to promote the progress of engineering technology and make more remarkable contributions to global sustainable development!

(Edited by: WANG Yujia, XU Lihui Reviewed by: XIE Zheping, WANG Sunyu)