Shaping the World - international development engineering

Aerial view of Sau Paulo, Brazil, one of the world's mega cities

Shaping the World uses the knowledge and experience of civil engineers to help find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

These global challenges range from population pressures and growing urbanisation, climate change effects, energy and water shortages, to natural and human disasters.

The United Nation group its response to these challenges in 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Engineering can make a direct contribution to the achievement of many of these goals for example:

  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  • Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Find out more about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals

Why the world needs our engineering skills

  • Quality infrastructure is positively related to the achievement of social, economic and political goals - by 2030, almost 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas
  • Rapid urbanization experience pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment and public health
  • Basic infrastructure like roads, communication technologies, sanitation, electrical power and water remains scarce in many developing countries;
  • 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation and almost 800 million people lack access to water
  • Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades; Major technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold

Many countries lack the means to tackle their infrastructure issues decisively. As civil engineers we can help alleviate these problems, safeguard the environment and properly plan the infrastructure.

Fore information or to get involved, please contact:

e: [email protected]

Shaping the world logo

How Shaping the World works

  • Shaping the World was set up in 2013 under the patronage of HRH The Princess Royal. We bring together the collective knowledge of our members, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government and industry.
  • We provide a platform to discuss global challenges, help find solutions and deliver improvements.
  • It’s our opportunity as civil engineers to make a real, positive difference wherever we can in the world.

Shaping the World to focus on water and sanitation

At Shaping the World we are primarily concerned with helping and improving lives in areas of deprivation. Our focus links directly with the UN’s list of Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those most affected by civil engineering.

Our current priority is to address issues around accessible clean water and sanitation in areas of acute need.

One of the first projects Shaping the World is supporting is a water quality sensor. This has the potential to demonstrate areas with unsafe drinking water at a lower cost than is currently possible. This will help improve water quality.

Funding for Shaping the World projects

Shaping the World has a central fund to help get projects off the ground, working in partnership with NGOs and other organisations. We will then pro-actively seek financial support from companies, trusts and foundations and organisations working in the built environment to further develop these projects.

Programme of projects


Civil engineering undergraduate project
A real life challenge for MEng civil engineering students to solve

10 Jan 2018 - 11th Brunel Closing Lecture: From Risk to Resilience
Having presented this lecture series in 22 locations worldwide to over 2000 individuals, Eelco H. Dykstra, MD will now present the results of the feedback obtained, draw some conclusions, and offer recommendations for future activity.

17 October 2017

Engineers for International Development conference
Chaired by water expert Prof David Balmforth, this one day conference looks at what’s needed in international development, who can deliver it and how you can make a difference.


Annual Prestige Lecture on resilience

This initiative of five annual Christmas lectures is funded by Heriot-Watt and MWH. It’s driven by the importance of infrastructure resilience – for both the developing and developed worlds

Previous lectures:


Academic in Residence
This is part of our thought leadership programme to help inform decision-making around global solutions and innovation. Professor Ian Guymer, Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Warwick works with industry to test and devise some pivotal projects for Shaping the World. This includes a world first MSc in Humanitarian Engineering and challenging industry to find innovative projects to support as well as linking to the UN New Urban Agenda and Engineers Without Borders.

2016 October

Infrastructure Learning Hub
The Infrastructure Learning Hub (ILH) at One Great George Street is a mix of information displays and state-of-the-art technology. It’s a hub for demonstrating the past, present and future of engineering development and has been home to two highly successful exhibitions: bridge engineering and tunnel engineering.


Hong Kong 2030
A report that looked into the role that civil engineers can play in Hong Kong to support high density living in a low carbon world. Working with the Chinese University of Hong Kong we audited infrastructure policy and practice and a report was presented to the Hong Kong government in January 2016.


World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO)
ICE is Chair of the WFEO standing technical committee on engineering and the environment. This is a global platform to develop initiatives with international partners such as the UN, OECD, UNESCO and the World Bank.


Global 2030 Construction Report
Sponsored by Shaping the World, the Global Construction Report has industry trends from 48 nations and is introduced by ICE President Sir John Armitt. Sir John highlights how data can enable the industry to take big decisions, develop more cross-sector partnerships and deliver innovative solutions to key infrastructure challenges which can transform the civil engineering sector.

Find out more about Shaping the World

As a learned society with a 200 year heritage ICE has the breadth of knowledge and skills to make change happen. ICE can provide:

  • help with skills and capacity building
  • support for other professional engineering institutions
  • research
  • influencing and lobbying
  • support for innovation
  • help raise awareness with key influencers and media
  • access to our vast library and learning resources

Get involved

Shaping the World wants to use civil engineering skills, knowledge and experience to benefit people living in areas of economic or environmental deprivation.

It is led by ICE Past President Professor David Balmforth. The external Programme Development Group meets regularly to discuss ideas and approve activity.

For more information on how you could make a real difference to communities that most need our help contact Shaping the World Programme Development Manager Ingrid Zanchetta.

e: [email protected]

Shaping the World partners

ICE is working with a number of partners to deliver Shaping the World.

Ove Arup Foundation logo
Costain logo
Mott MacDonald logo
Kier logo
Mace logo
Vinci logo
WSP logo
Atkins logo
Ramboll logo
John Laing logo
Garfield Weston logo
Gatsby logo