"Industrial ecology is the study of the flows of materials and energy in industrial and consumer activities, of the effect of these flows on the environment, and of the influence of economic, political, regulatory and social factors on the flow, use and transformation of resources. The objective of industrial ecology is to understand better how we can integrate environmental concerns into our economic activities. This integration, an ongoing process, is necessary if we are to address current and future environmental concerns."
— Robert White, US Academy of Engineering,1994
Industrial Ecology is a special form of engineering and social science. Instead of focussing on the development of specific technologies or environmental campaigns, it comprises a number of disciplines to understand the use and transformation of resources and the production of pollution and waste in the process of creating prosperity. IE assesses technologies, political incentives and environmental standards, and also shape the physical economy and the societal metabolism . The field increases the knowledge base on the impact of modern lifestyle on our environment and on how this lifestyle can become more sustainable. Besides, the expertise of this field is used to provide consulting to industry and to influence policy making.
Industrial Ecology emerged from a number of previously separate disciplines such as process engineering, risk assessment, urban planning, behavioural science, and technology management. Its development is driven by the spirit that guidelines for a substantial reduction of negative impacts on our environment can only be achieved by a coordinated effort of researchers from various fields.
IndEcol at NTNU
IndEcol is a university programme in the area of Industrial Ecology. The programme was initiated in 1994 and today, it covers several research disciplines and a comprehensive educational curriculum.
IndEcol is designed as an interdisciplinary research programme that brings together experts from different fields of sustainability sciences. Our research activities cover a wide range from impact assessments of specific technologies such as bio-fuel conversion plants, to the evaluation of international standards on corporate social responsibility.
Previously, people calling themselves ‘Industrial Ecologists' would have very different educational backgrounds. While this source of knowledge is still quite important for our research, there is an increasing demand from industry for skilled people with knowledge about impact assessment and environmental accounting. NTNU and the Norwegian industry have seen this trend and consequently, the world's first PhD programme in Industrial Ecology was established in 2003 here at NTNU. The international MSc programme in Industrial Ecology was set up the year after, with its first admission of students in 2005. Teaching activities are interdisciplinary; they aim at building a bridge between engineering and social sciences.