IndEcol history at a glance

  • 1994:  Industrial ecology initiative at NTNU after request from industry (Norsk Hydro).
  • 1996-1999:  3 pilot courses taught, developing the field.
  • 1998:  IndEcol formally established.
  • 1998:  IndEcol Student Forum created.
  • 1999:  First class of students enrolled in the Study Programme (12 courses, students could continue with project and thesis afterwards).
  • 2003:  World's first PhD programme in industrial ecology established.
  • 2005:  First class of students enrolled in the MSc in Industrial Ecology programme.
  • 2009:  Student organization Symbiosis started.


The industrial ecology activities at NTNU were started after an initiative from Norsk Hydro back in 1993. On behalf of Norsk Hydro, senior vice president Rolf Marstrander approached our Rector and pointed out the need for candidates and competence in relation to environmental management systems, systems analysis, design for the environment, and eco-efficiency assessment, as part of strategic industrial thinking.

This initiative was promptly and positively received by NTNU. An interim group of faculty (Sigurd Støren, Per Boelskifte, John Hermansen and Helge Brattebø) started developing a strategy towards activities in research and teaching in the area of Industrial Ecology, on the basis of close collaboration and academic input from leading universities abroad with similar interests. These universities were MIT, Yale, Georgia Tech, TU Delft, DTU Copenhagen and TU Chalmers.

A parallel line of collaboration was started towards national major private companies, in order to anchor the strategies towards practical challenges, needs and perspectives, as perceived by industry. These companies involved Norsk Hydro (Aluminium, Magnesium and Petroleum), Siemens, Kvaerner, Statoil, Storebrand, Norske Skog and ABB. In 1996 Rolf Marstrander was offered an adjunct professorship in industrial ecology at NTNU, and took the lead role of the interim steering committee for the industrial ecology initiative at the university, a position he held until the end of 2001.

Teaching industrial ecology courses at NTNU started in 1996, and in 1999 we expanded this activity, in response to the growing need and interest in the area. A comprehensive Industrial Ecology Study Programme admitted its first class of technology and social science students in 1999. The study programme had 12 courses, and recruited up to 20 Norwegian students per year into a three year interdisciplinary learning environment. In 2003 Norwegian universities began the process of changing their curricula to conform with the international three years BSc, plus two years MSc, plus three years PhD, structure. According to this process IndEcol launched a new international MSc and PhD curricula, that replaced the old structures from the academic year 2005/2006.

The academic and industrial research challenges were developed In close collaboration with the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences (NTVA), and all the partners above. As a consequence of this, we arranged, under the auspices of the NTVA, a series of four NTVA International Industrial Ecology Seminars. After the initial, consolidating years, IndEcol reduced the more general oriented collaboration with some of the initial industrial partners. Instead, we developed a more specific research collaboration with new companies, such as Tomra Systems, HÅG, Polimoon and Plastretur, as well as a continued and closer collaboration with Norsk Hydro and Statoil. A major part of these research collaborations took place through the research programme Productivity 2005.

In May 2003 Dr. Kjell Øren was offered the Norsk Hydro adjunct professorship in industrial ecology at NTNU, in order to pursue the successful efforts of Rolf Marstrander.

In research we have developed a strong group of doctoral students who work towards their PhD degrees, mostly in the fields of Engineering and Social Sciences. The success and rapid development of our activities in industrial ecology would not have been possible without the significant funding from the Norwegian Research Council, as well as the systematic support from business and industry partners.