The National Academy of Engineering: Looking Toward the Future

Charles M. Vest, President-elect

April 26, 2007


Engineering is at the core of addressing fundamental challenges to the U.S. economy, environment, health, security, and way of life in the 21st century.  As an independent organization of nearly 2,000 of the nation’s most accomplished engineers charged to provide the federal government with objective, informed advice on technological matters, the NAE can and will play an important role in securing our nation’s future.


The NAE membership must tend to the health, effectiveness, and future orientation of research, development, and innovation in business, government, and engineering education through careful analysis and recommendations of policy and investment.


To lead in the knowledge age, we need knowledgeable people – men and women who have vision, deep understanding of engineering, and the ability to participate in the system that translates innovative new ideas and technologies into new products, processes, and services.  Such engineering leaders must successfully address the Herculean national challenge of being competitive in the emerging world economy while maintaining our standard of living.


We must inspire and educate a new generation of diverse young men and women to pursue careers in engineering for the purpose of improving the quality of human life and strengthening American and worldwide economies.  We must develop engineering leaders to drive transformative technological advances, and to turn globalization from a threat to an opportunity.


Engineering in the 20th century was based on physics, chemistry, and electronics, and largely focused on energy, transportation, communication, and defense.  In the 21st century, engineering will additionally be based on life science and information science, and must increasingly focus on the environment, sustainability, and new approaches to energy.  The nation’s well-being and our place in the world community depend in large measure on our leading and implementing the new, cutting-edge innovations that come from both basic research and sophisticated development.


Going forward, the National Academies must sustain and enhance synergy across science, engineering, and medicine to strengthen the nation’s ability to discover, create, and heal.