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.

All Viterbi teams that submit Letters of Intent will be invited to participate in the spring 2019 VSi2 educational program in conjunction with our competition programs, including a guaranteed presentation to investors in spring 2019.


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?
    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?
    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 to