New Report Provides Direction for Engineering Research to Address Climate Change

Engineering Research Visioning Alliance’s (ERVA’s) inaugural report delivers bold engineering research priorities to address climate challenges

The Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA), a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded initiative, released a report today delineating bold, fundamental research priorities the engineering research community can pursue to address climate change. ERVA’s inaugural report results from a visioning event that convened more than 100 leading researchers from universities, industry, and government. The executive summary and full report can be found on ERVA’s website.

The aim of the ERVA report is to catalyze researchers and research funders (public, private, and nonprofit) to tackle shared priorities to address climate change, and it arrives at a critical time. Congress recently passed legislation including $370 billion aimed at curbing carbon emissions and incentivizing the use of renewable energy sources, the largest funding amount allocated to fighting climate change in U.S. history. As momentum builds to address the effects of climate change, engineering research will play an important role.

“Engineers are driven by devising elegant solutions to complex problems,” said Amy Heintz, a member of ERVA’s Executive Committee, a co-chair of the Thematic Task Force for the visioning event and technical fellow at Battelle. “Engineering research will make solutions to climate change possible – with innovations that bring our natural world, our built world, and our societies into balance.”

The report identified lines of engineering research that will have significant impact and benefit society. A common thread is the need to address today’s critical scientific and societal challenges using collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and convergent approaches. The report identifies three major thrusts:

  • Focus on critical materials in engineered systems and the important role they play in technologies that mitigate climate change. Engineering research can help maximize their function and efficiency.
  • Invest in sensor, sensing, and related communication capabilities to facilitate data compilation and analysis that can be used in both natural and built worlds, from subsurface environments to water and air.
  • Enable and strategically use artificial intelligence (AI) modeling for forecasting, trend analyses, and to prioritize which solutions to implement.

“The Role of Engineering to Address Climate Change” emerged as the most critical problem for engineering research to solve from a survey of nearly 500 members of the ERVA community. ERVA developed a Thematic Task Force to frame and shepherd the workshop conversations that yielded findings in the report. Heintz and Bruce Logan, director of the Engineering Energy and Environmental Institute at Penn State University, served as co-chairs. The other six task force members were David Allen of the University of Texas at Austin, Andrew Bochman of the Idaho National Lab, Eric Corey Freed of CannonDesign, Elena Irwin of The Ohio State University, Kimberly Jones of Howard University and Serdar Tufekci of ENGIE North America. The University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, the University of California, Los Angeles Samueli School of Engineering, and the University of Utah College of Engineering served as co-hosts for the event, contributing to agenda framing, participant recruitment, and report development.

“The findings in each of our sessions – which together make up this ground-breaking new report – will be crucial in driving future research directions for the engineering community,” Logan said. “These are specific research directions through which engineering can take the lead and have impact. “

To read the report, visit ERVA’s website. ERVA is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

About The Engineering Research Vision Alliance (ERVA):

The Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA) is a neutral convener that helps define future engineering research directions. Funded by the NSF Directorate for Engineering, ERVA is a diverse, inclusive and engaged partnership that enables an array of voices to impact national research priorities. The five-year initiative convenes, catalyzes and enables the engineering community to identify nascent opportunities and priorities for engineering-led innovative, high-impact, cross-domain research that addresses national, global and societal needs. Learn more at www.ERVAcommunity.org.