The audience was able to discuss with the panel pressing concerns on the environment, energy, education, transport and leadership.
The event was jointly hosted by the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Chartered Management Institute.
The gap between what engineers are doing in the area of sustainability and what is being done by the public needs to be highlighted, said ICE vice-president Scott Steedman.
Vice-chancellor of Aston University professor Julia King felt that the sustainability agenda requires a paradigm shift in both culture and lifestyle.
On the issue of market forces, Bob Gibbon, chief executive, National Skills Academy for Manufacturing, felt that more work was needed on the carbon-pricing regime in terms of strengthening and codification. Steedman also warned that the market should not be left to dictate the sustainability agenda unchecked.
"This event is all about getting people together to establish what the major issues are affecting the West Midlands and not just in the engineering sense," said ICE West Midlands external relations executive Peter Sharples.
"The West Midlands vividly reflect the problems the nation faces in the first part of the 21st century," said Steedman.
The panel also featured David Wright, chief executive, Manufacturing Advisory Service, West Midlands ; Clive Hickman, chief executive, Tata Motors European Technical Centre; and Olwen Dutton, chief executive, West Midlands Regional Assembly.