PARIS — One in five engineers worldwide say securing cyberspace is the most daunting challenge facing the world in the next 25 years, according to a new survey.

The Global Engineer Survey, commissioned by DiscoverE, found cybersecurity, sustaining land and oceans, providing clean energy, and improving access to clean water and sanitation were the four most significant global tasks.

The findings, released on the first UNESCO World Engineering Day, found optimism among young people, but one in three respondents warned that a lack of government support would hold back efforts to tackle major challenges.

“Engineers are the world’s problem-solvers, yet engineering is often overlooked or under-appreciated as providing the solution to major challenges, such as climate change, digitalization, and food security,” said Gong Ke, president of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), which campaigned for World Engineering Day. “Today is an opportunity to celebrate engineering and its vital role in delivering sustainable development worldwide, and champion the next generation of innovators.”

On average, engineers rated their optimism for tackling global problems at 62 on a scale of 1 to 100, naming transportation, AI, and space travel as the top three innovations that will turn science fiction into reality. However, more than half of respondents from almost 120 different countries saw a shortage of engineers both now and in the future to address these issues.

“These highly illuminating findings are reason for both optimism and caution,” said Kathy Renzetti, executive director, DiscoverE, which commissioned the survey of more than 10,000 engineers.

“Young engineers possess an irrepressible can-do spirit and a readiness to take on the world’s toughest challenges. But as the overwhelming majority of survey participants make clear, the next generation can’t do it alone. Solving the world’s problems is an enormous collaborative undertaking involving both the public and private sectors and extending across disciplines, borders, and demographics.”

Engineering organizations, institutes, and companies gathered to mark the inaugural celebration of an international day dedicated to engineering.

“The world is still lacking engineers, especially young women engineers, and the importance of engineering to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not stressed enough,” said Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, assistant director-general for natural sciences at UNESCO. “The aim of this day is to increase the visibility of engineering and its role in sustainable development, to encourage students to study engineering or pursue engineering studies, and to share success stories in engineering.”

The Global Engineer Survey, which was commissioned by DiscoverE, included 10,077 respondents from 119 countries.

When asked the most daunting challenge facing engineers in the next 25 years, the responses were:
1. Securing cyberspace (19%)
2. Economical clean energy (18%)
3. Sustaining land and oceans (16%)
4. Sustainable and resilient infrastructure (11%)

When asked if there was currently a shortage of engineers, the responses were:
1. Strongly agree 12.9%
2. Agree 38.8%
3. Neutral 29.1%
4. Disagree 14.4%
5. Strongly disagree 4.8%

When asked if there would be a shortage of engineers in the future, the responses were:
1. Strongly agree 16%
2. Agree 38.3%
3. Neutral 24.4%
4. Disagree 16.8%
5. Strongly disagree 4.5%