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From Environmental Science to
Sustainable Development

Integrated Vision

Social and economic research activities focus on several areas in line with other IENV core concentrations. Key areas currently comprise: 

  • Alternative energy 

  • Clean production and green materials

  • Policy, planning and management      

  • Socio-economic analysis

  • Environmental health

  • Marine biotechnology

The Institute for the Environment's (IENV) research on economy and society is a natural extension of studies carried out in a diverse range of fields at HKUST. This extension involves both the science and engineering fields, which analyze and propose practical solutions to problems, as well as the social sciences, which are called upon to provide socio-economic analysis of environmental pressures and potential responses.

Calling on the world-class expertise available at HKUST in science, engineering, economics, and social science, IENV creates an innovative interdisciplinary forum that draws researchers together and provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to environment-society relations.

In doing so, IENV enables a more coherent approach to environmental research than could be achieved individually or by teams focused within one particular discipline. It also opens up exciting new research frontiers.

The local context for economy and society research is challenging. Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta present a unique combination of environmental and economic integration amid two distinct political and social systems. This means the analysis of environmental or economic systems cannot readily be translated into one-stop policy recommendations, requiring the development of alternative approaches.

While these conditions may be unique, the policies and strategies adopted are global in significance given the Pearl River Delta's position as the world's workshop and Hong Kong's essential role in the global supply chain.

The ability to cohesively integrate social impact and policy implications with scientific and technological research on a wide range of essential environmental issues thus gives IENV a far-reaching part to play in the race for sustainable development.


Frontier Research

Some of the research areas being explored:

Renewable energy generated from solar and wind; waste to energy; gasification of biomass for energy production; fuel cells for transportation and power generation; nanomaterials for energy storage devices including fuel cells and batteries; clean production processes for reducing material consumption and pollution; software for waste minimization and pollution prevention; green materials for industrial applications and building environments; hazards impacting on environmental health; analysis of environmental risk, socio-economic and life-cycle analysis for policy-making and planning; novel compounds from marine organisms.

Managing Change

Economy and society research is integrated into all the areas under study at IENV. The five main programs are:

Water Technology and Resource Management
The integration of interdisciplinary water technology and management expertise at HKUST to undertake cutting-edge fundamental and applied research for a better understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological mechanisms related to water resources and technology and to develop sound management decisions, particularly in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Region and Mainland China.

An End-to-End Air Quality Management System
An integrated system approach to support the development of effective air quality management strategies for Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, including measurement, chemical and physical analyses, modelling, control methodologies, impact and policy studies. Also involves collaboration with other universities and institutions.

Coastal Water Pollution and Sustainability of Biological Resources
Investigations into the sustainability and rehabilitation of the Pearl River Estuary and Hong Kong waters by identifying the key water pollution problems, their sources, transport, environmentally related physical, chemical and biological processes, biological impact, environmental risk assessment and mitigation options. The program also identifies and maintains important biological resources and species biodiversity that may be used in marine biotechnology.

Integrated Zero Waste Solution in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta
The development of innovative solid waste treatment technologies that integrate the concept of waste treatment and disposal and utilize all the valuable resources from the treatment processes, including energy, materials, land, water, to generate maximum benefits both socially and economically.

Cleaner Energy Technologies
Research in the broad field of energy science and technology to develop emerging sustainable energy technologies with low/no greenhouse gases and pollutant emissions. The focus is on fuel cells, renewable electricity generation, hydrogen distribution infrastructure, energy saving and energy efficiency, and knowledge for energy policy-making.