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Input-Output Conference 2010

The Industrial Ecology Lab - towards an integrated Australian research platform

The concept of environmental or carbon footprint is familiar to most Australians. Over the past decade, the footprint concept has become a powerful framework in which to analyse and describe the indirect, often invisible, impacts of our economic activity on the environment. This becomes increasingly useful as globalisation changes our economy. Goods and services now often pass through extended production and supply chains before reaching the end consumer, involving environmental impacts at each transaction point along the way. Producing a car, for example, may involve iron ore mining in Western Australia, car assemblage in Japan, electronic parts imported from China, and thousands of other inputs. At first sight, analysing the environmental implications of such complex supply-chains seems impossibly complicated.

However, researchers from nine collaborating Australian institutions will establish ground-breaking electronic infrastructure to address this challenge. They will create a virtual "Industrial Ecology Laboratory" that can unravel the complex environmental and economic interactions of modern Australia. This virtual laboratory will dramatically enhance Australia's analytical capabilities in Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA), carbon footprinting, water footprinting, and other approaches to environmental impact assessment. It will also improve our capacity for modelling the future effects of changes in economic and social policy.

The Industrial Ecology Lab will integrate a diverse set of data streams with a calculation engine that can rapidly react as new information becomes available, and this capability will mark a new era in sustainability research. The Industrial Ecology Laboratory will significantly boost Australia's ability to make strategic decisions that deliver a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable economy.

A number of researchers are already using the Industrial Ecology Lab for their purposes, for example in studies on future biofuel industries for Australia , industrial symbiosis and material efficiency and on waste metal flows. The IE Lab is also collaborating with the Jolliet Lab at the School of Public Health of the University of Michigan, on modeling the environmental health effects of Australian consumption by combining an economic MRIO model with a multiscale fate and exposure model of pollution. For further details on the Industrial Ecology Lab, follow this link.

The Industrial Ecology Lab concept was conceived by Prof Manfred Lenzen, of ISA at the University of Sydney. The constituency of the original Industrial Ecology Lab was established at two meetings, one on Stradbroke Island, Qld, 25-30 April 2012 and one in Bundanoon, NSW, 18-20 February 2013. The IE Lab's architecture and infrastructure will be developed throughout 2013 under the lead of Prof Manfred Lenzen. From 2014 onwards, the Lab will be operated under the lead of Prof Tommy Wiedmann of the University of New South Wales. The Industrial Ecology Laboratory acknowledges funding from the NeCTAR project. NeCTAR is an Australian Government project conducted as part of the Super Science initiative and financed by the Education Investment Fund.

The project participants are (in alphabetical order)

The founding members of the Industrial Ecology Lab. From left to right, top row: Joe Lane, Dean Webb, Julien Ugon, Steve Kenway, Arne Geschke; bottom row: Peter Daniels, Manfred Lenzen, Tommy Wiedmann, Jacob Fry. Missing: John Boland, Christian Reynolds

For further information please contact

Dr Arne Geschke
ISA, School of Physics A28
The University of Sydney NSW 2006
+61 (0)2 9036-7505
[email protected]