GCI Topics


Our approach with the Grand Challenges Initiative is to begin with topics that are not unique to fire engineering, but instead represent pressing global challenges where fire safety science and engineering can contribute to ongoing discussions that affect the daily lives of billions.

Rather than selecting these unilaterally, the SFPE Foundation polled members of the SFPE community and other stakeholders to solicit input. Based on survey and interview feedback, the April 2022 GCI Summit, resulting working groups, white papers, and implementation efforts will focus on the following four topics:

Energy & Infrastructure 

New (renewable) energy sources provide significant opportunities for sustainable development, but also raise new questions, including about fire safety. These energy sources also require new infrastructure to support them, at a time when the general renewal of the (US) infrastructure at the top of the agenda. Representative topics in this area include: 

  • Alternative energy generation
  • Causes of vehicle fires
  • Energy storage, including: 
    • Safer energy storage chemistries 
    • Safe transportation 
    • Containment for new products/damaged products 

You can find a complete list of Energy & Infrastructure topics here.

Resilience & Sustainability

Increasing efforts to build and live in sustainable ways and to improve the resilience of communities against environmental challenges, including fire events, open up new areas of research. Representative topics in this area include: 

  • Assessing fire hazards of new building materials/practices 
  • Environmental impact of fire testing 
  • Fire risks in new (public) transport technologies 
  • Development of risk-based analysis to compare hazards of fire to long-term health impacts of fire mitigation measures 

 You can find a complete list of Resilience & Sustainability topics here.

Climate Change 

The impacts and challenges of a changing climate have been increasingly visible, most obviously in the  form of new and growing threats of wildfires and extended droughts. Representative topics in this area include: 

  • Building fire protection in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) 
  • Environmental impact of fire and fire suppression activities 
  • Analysis of the impact of climate change on fire safety 

 You can find a complete list of Climate Change topics here.  

Digitalization, Artificial Intelligence, & Cybersecurity 

Digitalization and artificial intelligence play an increasing role in our societies, not only in business environments but also in people’s personal lives (e.g., through AI implementation on their cell phones). With this increased role come new opportunities to draw on these tools to increase fire safety. Representative topics in this area include: 

  • Use of cloud-based home/consumer devices to pinpoint fire origins 
  • Drawing on cell phones to develop smart egress systems 
  • Big data and AI-technologies to model building fires 
  • Data mining to identify chemical process deviations

 You can find a complete list of Digitalization, Artificial Intelligence, & Cybersecurity topics here.

You can also find a complete list of topics for all four areas in the GCI Topics Scope Document. If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out to Amanda Tarbet, Research Manager, at atarbet@sfpefoundation.org.

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