Background

Though early modern human civilizations have been present for thousands of years, only the past few hundred years saw the rise of extensive anthropogenic impact on the planet. Geologists have even declared a new geological epoch, the "Anthropocene", starting from the Industrial Revolution, to recognize a new era dominated by significant and extensive human activity and growth. In this time, dangerous anthropogenic impact (DAI) on the climactic-biological system has only accelerated with waves of industrialization and globalization. As a result, the world will face several pressing and large-scale environmental challenges in the coming century. Among these are the issues of access to safe drinking water, natural resource depletion on all fronts, including and especially fossil fuels, ocean acidification, and loss of biodiversity. These problems are only compounded by population growth – according to a UN estimate, the world's population will go from 7 billion people today to around 9 billion by 2050.

  • 4E4Earth

    The 4E4Earth Tempus IV proposal attempts to address this knowledge gap in higher education. Even where environmental engineering programs exist, there is often a gap between academia and industry. Thus, the 4E4Earth program would like to develop and nourish a new generation of engineers: the eco-engineer entrepreneur (eco from ecological), who, with the help of green entrepreneurship education, gains knowledge about the physical, technological and business worlds and brings it to the realms of business and innovation. The eco-engineer entrepreneur will only become more necessary as natural resources are further depleted; s/he will help create solutions to use them sustainably while protecting and conserving the delicate ecosystem balance. Thus, this new class of students will be more relevant both to industry (more employable) and in addressing global challenges. Finally, the applied and domain-specific English skills they will receive in the program will help these eco-engineer entrepreneurs to develop and innovate on an international scale, drawing on research and resources from not only their home country but also abroad, and able to communicate with industry and society with a common set of terms and relevant concepts. Another aim of 4E4Earth is to add an environmental engineering & entrepreneurship perspective to all disciplines, from psychology (how to encourage individuals to recycle) to education (how to pass on "green" habits and knowledge) to medicine (how to research and develop new medicines while protecting and conserving the biodiversity hotspots in which they are discovered). 

    The 4E4Earth Tempus project will shape higher education in two ways, both through a targeted, newly-developed entrepreneurship & environmental engineering program, and by adding such a perspective to existing programs in engineering and in other disciplines (as discussed above). The first will entail the development of an entrepreneurship & environmental engineering curriculum, to include courses on environmental engineering, as well as topical entrepreneurship classes, providing students with both the entrepreneurship mindset and a business-skill set. Topics will include a survey of global environmental challenges and current initiatives, as well as marketing, management, leadership, business-plan writing, and networking. This set of courses will help engineers use their domain-specific knowledge to become eco-engineer entrepreneurs who can identify and solve environmental problems through engineering. While historically, environmental priorities and bottom lines have been at odds, the new class of eco-engineer entrepreneur will have the combined knowledge base necessary for creating solutions that are both energy-efficient and cost-effective. Specific challenges that might be addressed include providing for growing energy needs, specifically in light of the rapid industrialization of enveloping countries; solutions may use cheap and abundant natural resources such as solar or wind power. Another possible focus is on designing environmentally-friendly, zero-emission transit, which will become increasingly necessary as the global trend of urbanization continues. Finally, the topic of waste management may be addressed both by designing better systems using biodegradable materials, as well as developing novel waste-to-energy processes.

    In the framework of 4E4Earth, ties will be established with the community and industry. On the first note, a 4E4Earth Open Day will be developed: a day focused on brining innovations in environmental engineering to the wider public. Additionally, engineering students in the program will run workshops at local high schools, in English, on entrepreneurship & environmental engineering.  Finally, a two-week summer workshop will be developed in both Israel and Europe, with seminars, workshops, and industry speakers, where students will work on research projects in cooperation with local companies.

    One of Israel's national priorities is fostering the education-innovation-research triangle; 4E4Earth addresses this priority directly with its unique curriculum and human resource development. In addition, the higher education authority in Israel emphasizes the development of graduates' English skills, which are vital in light of the rapid globalizing forces at play in both academia and industry. To flourish in today's world, future engineers need these English skills as well as specific and relevant knowledge in both entrepreneurship and environmental engineering.

    Following the success of the Tempus-EFA project, SCE has proven experience managing Tempus projects. The cooperative partnerships developed during the project and knowledge gained regarding entrepreneurship education can be further exploited and developed for the proposed 4E4Earth Tempus project. Finally, the project is in line with the Bologna process initiatives, such as the standardization and modernisation of higher education.