The aim of the conference was to look ahead into the unknown future of engineering sciences by focusing on some of the societal challenges engineering academies must take on to be relevant. The conference highlighted new tools that future engineers need to embrace and master as well as new structures of creative interactions.The opening session of the conference focused on what engineering and technological science had accomplished in the last 100 years, focusing on major scientific and engineering accomplishments that had greatly influenced society and the scientific world. Following the opening session, topics were selected to represent some of the future challenges facing society.
The 2017 International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS) Convocation took place in Madrid, Spain on 13-16th November, 2017, under the aspiration of “Engineering a better world”, a motto adopted in CAETS 2016 for use in subsequent convocations.
The 2017 CAETS convocation began with an International Conference focused on “Engineering Challenges of the Bioeconomy”, where international experts presented their views on selected topics to representatives of the member academies of CAETS and to an international audience. The urgent need for the sustainable use of natural resources, and the notable advances in the field of biology have paved the way for the expansion of a bio-based economy. The bioeconomy addresses the use of renewable biological resources and their conversion into products, ranging from food and feed to other bio-based products and bio-energy. It demands innovative techniques for the production, processing, storage, consumption, recycling and disposal of natural resources. Thus, bioeconomy brings together the various sectors of the economy that are related to biological resources (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, bio-based chemicals and materials and bioenergy).
The future of food
This session focused on the fact that past successes in producing food globally that met the needs of a growing population do not guarantee the production and equitable distribution of sufficient, nutritious food in the future. Safeguarding food security and ending hunger under rapidly changing ecological and socio-economic conditions was recognized as a basic priority. It was shown that there is significant uncertainty in the capacity of current agricultural systems to meet the challenge in the medium term (20 years). Here, the most promising avenue for progress would be bridging the production gap between current average and potential production of the major crops.
Efficient use of resources that can be used over and over again should be at the base of sustainable food systems. A shift in the production systems from chains to circles will be required to increase resource use efficiency. Engineering solutions that are economically viable are needed to improve the circularity in food production. One critical issue is food waste, both in developed and developing countries. Enabling new technologies for reducing waste and unlocking the value of waste will be critical as part of the multiple solutions to supply sufficient healthy and safe food for a growing and diverse world population in a sustainable and resilient fashion.
The New Genetic Engineering
The New Genetic Engineering
Civilizations arose after new varieties of plants and animals were developed by unconscious genetic engineering: the selection and multiplication of spontaneous mutants and recombinants. The green revolution of the twentieth century, which has kept food production ahead of population growth, was based on the knowledge of classical genetics. Molecular biology has provided new techniques for the precise modification of genes and genome functions.
The new era of genetic engineering goes beyond the modification of single traits to allow rewiring of complex metabolic, sensorial, and developmental circuits that may include artificial genes designed by engineers. Targeted genome engineering offers vast possibilities for adapting organisms to existing or desirable environments, rendering them resistant to diseases, modifying product composition, and establishing new processes and products for alimentary, industrial, and medicinal applications. The scrutiny of society on all these innovations means that they must be regulated, monitored, and controlled in order to prove their safety and benefits, but the products of the new breeding techniques should not be scrutinized more severely than the products of conventional breeding
The Blue Bioeconomy
Coastal areas and continental shelves comprise about 18% of the Earth’s surface and they are inhabited by 60% of human population. Exploitation of marine and other aquatic ecosystems is becoming increasingly important for human well-being, in particular in the developing countries. Oceans and inland waters now, and more so in the future, have potential to contribute significantly to food security and adequate nutrition for a growing global population. The recent expansion of aquaculture is such that, for the first time in history, the contribution of aquaculture to the supply of fish for human consumption has surpassed that of wild caught fish.
It is imperative that marine production becomes sustainable in the long run. Most major wild fisheries are already fully exploited, overfished or exhausted. Technology including new types of ships and nets can increase quality and selectivity. The many substances that oceans contain may harvested more effectively through biological systems. As spawning grounds, coastal zones and estuaries are vulnerable to many human activities that generate land-sourced pollution. With the new interest in the bioeconomy, human exploitation in many regions, superimposed on environmental changes, challenges the sustainable future of many ocean zones and requires a concerted action by governments and society at large.
Deep and widespread changes in the global energy sector is expected in the next few decades due to climate change and to the fact that renewable sources such as sun and wind are already the cheapest way for electricity generation in many world areas. To minimize the global temperature increase we have to reduce as quickly as possible the anthropogenic GHG emissions. Power generation and road transportation are responsible for more than half of the emissions. The increase in renewable power generation and road transport electrification as well as the use of renewable fuels such as hydrogen are completely necessary to keep the increase in global temperature at safe levels in the coming decades.
Most major countries are committed to a fast increase in renewable power generation to tackle not only global warming, but the air pollution and other health problems in its larger cities. Natural gas will probably play a transition role from using the more contaminating fuels as the energy systems move towards renewable sources. Most countries are making a transition towards greater diversification of their energy sources. New products and know-how associated with clean energy are already having significant effects in the economic growth and exports of countries.
SAAE’s representatives at the CAETS Convocation Felix Reinders, Trueman Goba, Bob Pullen and Mike Shand
The 2017 CAETS Convocation was hosted by the Royal Spanish Academy of Engineering in Madrid, Spain, from 13 to 17 November 2017. The theme of the meeting was “Challenges of the Bio-economy” with four sub-themes, namely “Food security”, “New Genetic Engineering”, “Blue Economy” and “Transition to a new Energy Model”. SAAE was represented by the President, Mr Trueman Goba, the Vice-President, Dr Mike Shand, the Past President and current Treasurer, Mr Bob Pullen, and Fellow Felix Reinders. The Executive Committee of SAAE invited Fellow Reinders to attend the Convocation as the theme of the Convocation fell within the scope of his expertise. The Executive Committee intends to disseminate the information emanating from the Convocation by making arrangements for Fellow Reinders to make presentations at different venues in the country.
The Annual CAETS Convocation was hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) in London in September 2016. SAAE was represented by Dr Mike Shand, Vice President, and Bob Pullen, Past President and current Treasurer of SAAE. As part of the programme the RAE organised a Young Engineers Leadership day and invited all academies to nominate two young engineers to attend the Leadership Day as well as the other functions forming part of the Convocation at the cost of the RAE.
RAE accepted SAAE’s nominations of Geoff du Toit, a young engineer employed by Aurecon in Cape Town, and Luyanda Mhlanga a Candidate Engineer employed by AECOM. At the request of SAAE, RAE accepted an additional nomination namely that of Rene Mathias a PhD Civil Engineering student at the University of Cape Town who is a citizen of Swaziland.
The Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) hosted the 23rd CAETS Council Meeting and Conference in New Delhi, India, from 12 to 16 October 2015. The SAAE was represented by Fellows Bob Pullen (President), Trueman Goba (Vice President) and Prof Philip Lloyd. The overall theme of the Conference was Pathways to Sustainability: Energy, Mobility and Healthcare Engineering.
Prof Lloyd served on the CAETS Council Energy Sub-committee charged with preparing a report entitled “Transitioning to Lower Carbon Economy: Technological and Engineering Considerations in Building and Transportation Sectors”. This Committee met on the fringe of the Conference to finalize a draft report to Council. Fellow Lloyd played a prominent role in compiling and editing the report.