Sustainable Development

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.


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

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, as well as AI-powered exposure management system. Also involves collaboration with other universities and institutions.

Climate Adaptation & Resilience Analysis

Careful attentions are required to build and craft a climate-ready Hong Kong to tackle the unprecedented climate change challenges. IENV has been conducting extensive modelling work to assess the impact of sea level rise and to estimate the geographical extent of possible future flooding in the Greater PRD region. A large-scale climate policy relevant conference was hosted in 2018, bringing together a wide range of experts to learn and examine what it would take to make cities and regions much more climate resilient.

Water Technology & 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.