SYSTEMS ENGINEERING FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The recent pandemic has brought the planet together in unprecedented solidarity and understanding of the unknown and the unseen. The diversity of government and individual responses testifies to our global unpreparedness for such situations. A new understanding of the importance of holistic and systems thinking is permeating both industry and academia. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain thematic areas that are relevant for reflection as countries regroup, rebuild and move forward (1).
Systems engineering is a discipline that goes beyond its original strengths and creates complex technological systems. Fields such as health care, transportation, natural resource management, social economics, and governance recognize the value of applying systems thinking and systems engineering practices to find solutions that go beyond symptomatic problems with a band-aid and address root causes.
Systems engineering is not so much a branch of engineering as it is a technique for applying knowledge from other branches of engineering and disciplines of science in effective combination to solve a multifaceted engineering problem. It is related to operations research but differs from it in that it is more a planning and design function, frequently involving technical innovation. Probably the most important aspect of systems engineering is its application to the development of new technological possibilities with the specific objective of putting them to use as rapidly as economic and technical considerations permit. In this sense it may be seen as the midwife of technological development.
The word “systems” is frequently used also in other combinations, especially when elements of technological advance are not so important. Systems analysis is an example. Systems theory, or sometimes systems science, is frequently applied to the analysis of physical dynamic systems. An example would be a complex electrical network with one or more feedback loops, in which the effects of a process return to cause changes in the source of the process.