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About us - History

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IETU is located in Katowice, the capital of Silesia – a region in Southern Poland. For many years Silesia has been known as one of the most heavily industrialised and urbanised area in Europe. In the span of decades industrial activities such as mining, metallurgy, power generation, chemical industry as well as other branches caused a dramatic environmental degradation. Transition of Polish economy enforced weakening the dominant role of heavy industry in the region, which has been directly reflected by the reduction of environmental impact, giving - however - raise to new environmental problems accompanying restructurization of large national industrial plants, the most urgent of which are large abandoned industrial sites posing risk to the environment and human health.

Several periods can be identified in the history of IETU development, each set up by different milestone events. As presented below, the individual periods have significantly contributed to building the present potential of the Institute, therefore their characteristics has been described with stressing the main facts which are of crucial importance for the development of the Institute. Also the external conditions cannot be neglected when presenting the IETU picture today. It should be mentioned, however, that the development of the scientific background of IETU progressed alongside the trends and tendencies in approaching the problems of environmental protection observed and prospected in the world in the last half of the 20th century and the beginnings of the 21st century.

Deep roots (1948-1966)

The beginnings of the Institute go back to the year 1948, when the Inter-Voivodeship River Protection Committee was established to provide foundations of the present Institute. In 1952 this unit was transformed into the Division of the Institute of Municipal Management and in 1960 - of the Institute of Water Management. In these years environmental protection in Poland was centred mainly on water protection and solid waste management. Only until 1965 the Institute has investigated as many as 9 400 km of Poland’s rivers.

Opening the window to the world (1966-1972)

During this period the Institute initiates and conducts its first international project for WHO/UNDP - Poland 0026. The project was aimed at developing a model wastewater treatment technology applied for combined treatment of municipal sewage and industrial wastewater. In the framework of the project the treatment technology was implemented in the pilot area embracing several industrial towns of Silesia. The Project fruited in first international contacts; first visits of foreign experts took place and Institute's staff members were sent abroad for fellowships. The Institute opened to the Western world. At this time, methods of mathematical modelling and interpretation of the measurement results were developed. They constituted the basis for new thinking about the environment as a system of components. The first international contacts facilitated building the idea for another international project for WHO/UNDP POL/RCE 001, which was started in 1972.

Long-term and system-oriented building of IETU’s foundations (1972-1982)

In 1972 IETU, the former Katowice Branch of the Institute of Environmental Protection, received the status of the WHO Environmental Pollution Abatement Centre (EPAC). Establishing EPAC was one of the main objectives of UNDP/WHO Project POL/RCE 001 entitled "Environmental Protection". The 7-year Project was directly aimed at formulating a comprehensive programme of environmental protection in a selected area of the Upper Silesian Industrial Region, defined as a model area. Due to its scale the Project allowed for establishing an extensive database on all environmental components of the area. The detailed inventory of the area, including major pollution sources with indication of the priority goals constituted an input to optimisation studies. The optimisation studies were the main tool in the development of a comprehensive plan for pollution control and abatement in the model area. During the Project a number of seminars and conferences were organised, which were milestones in the development of methodology in the Project.

Another WHO/UNDP Project "Environmental Impact Assessment System" was based on a Project Document approved by UNDP/WHO and the Polish Government. The Project began in July 1979 and was completed at the end of 1981. The long-term objective of the Project was to provide assistance for the Polish Government in incorporating environmental protection implications into planning policy and decision-making processes. The Project was aimed at introduction of a new tool, which would enable dealing with environmental protection problems on a comprehensive basis. Environmental impact assessment methodologies provided for an analysis of complex options from the perspective of a variety of disciplines and time periods. An effort was made to make EIA methodologies with short and long-term development plans at central, regional and local level. The EPAC was responsible for research and co-ordination of the whole Project. As a principal co-ordinator EPAC produced 25 long reports, 48 short reports and additional 20 analyses. In order to carry out the Project successfully a special training Programme in EIA methodologies for Polish specialists was organised and launched. In November 1979 a training seminar in Poland was held by Dr. Brian Clark from the Centre of Environmental Management and Planning in Aberdeen, Scotland, after which five specialists from the Institute attended the course on EIA methodologies at the University of Aberdeen.

In February 1981 a workshop-seminar was organised at Jabłonna, Poland for 60 specialists. Participation in the project research work and in the training seminars and courses were the starting point for establishing a group of EIA specialists who constituted the beginnings of the list of the Minister's expert group in this field.

In 1975 the Institute moved to its new facility which enabled gathering all the departments at one location.

Stabilisation (1982-1989)

A very intensive development of the Institute during the 70’s and early 80’s was set back at the end of the 80’s due to the progressing economic and political crisis in the country.

However, despite the difficult political and economic situation in the country during the 80’s the Institute continued improving its links with foreign institutions and strengthening its international role using its position, experience and contacts gained in previous collaborations.

The Institute masters EIA methodology and its practical applications developing an Environmental Action Plan for Katowice and Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship for the years 1985-1995 as an EIA institutional expert from the Minister's list. At that time, according to the law, EIA report becomes obligatory for most investments and many existing large industrial plants. The EIA experts working in the Institute provided a meaningful input to these reports.

Already in the 80’s the Institute served as a reference centre for fellowships and scholarships funded by UNO agendas (WHO, UNDP, UNIDO). Courses and individual training curricula were developed for students who were invited to assist in research projects carried out in the Institute.

Transformation (1989-1992)

The period of transformation overlaps the period of political changes in Poland. The time of great changes was also the good time for great changes in the Institute.

A very positive in consequences was a decision of the management in 1992 concerning the Institute's separation from the structure of the large Institute of Environmental Protection and gaining independence as the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas. Also adjustment of the IETU's mission to the environmental protection activities in urbanised and industrialised areas was of great importance.

Development of the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas during the next years reflects the development and implementation of the principle of sustainable development in Poland.

New Challenges (1992-2001)

As an independent unit IETU was established in 1992 with the mission of promoting the principle of sustainable development of urbanised and industrialised areas.

IETU carries out scientific, research and development works as well as educational activities aimed at addressing problems in highly urbanised and industrialised areas. Based on its many years' experience in the area of environmental protection, IETU provides also expertise and consulting services. IETU performs goal-oriented projects for all levels of governmental administration, local governments, industry, other research and development units, consulting firms as well as for private business. IETU is registered in the PHARE/TACIS Consultants Register under the number POL 18479 and in the DACON World Bank Database under the number 2312.

Building Potential

Since 1993 an increased dynamics of the Institute’s potential development can be observed. The management of IETU together with the Scientific Board decided to enhance the efforts towards building the multidisciplinary scope of R&D IETU’s potential.

What distinguishes IETU presently from other R&D units in Poland is its multidisciplinary character of activities. On one hand, it helps combining the promotion of sustainable development with technological development, competitiveness, growth and social goals. On the other hand, it facilitates the IETU's collaboration with similar units in Europe and worldwide and its participation in solving problems of European and global dimension. The multidisciplinary character of the organisation is reflected by the research agenda and themes, which the Institute has been dealing with, as well as educational background of its scientists.

IETU’s R&D, training and consulting activities focus on:

  • land management,
  • integrated atmospheric protection,
  • management of water resources,
  • risk analysis and assessment,
  • soil and groundwater remediation technologies,
  • integrated environmental monitoring and modelling,
  • solid and hazardous waste management,
  • environmental microbiology,
  • environmental policy,
  • geostatistical analyses,
  • public involvement.

Result of external evaluation

Dynamic development of IETU as a leading Polish R&D institution was already highly evaluated in 1996. In the ranking of 28 Polish research and development units carried out jointly by the British firm Arthur D. Little and Group for restructurization of R&D units providing service to industrial sector, IETU received a score of 19.8 points of the total of 20 and was placed on the top position. The highest position in the ranking entitled IETU together with other 6 Polish R&D units to benefit from the PHARE SCI-TECH restructurization Fund.


IETU’s staff consists of 95 employees, including 42 researchers, in that 3 people with a degree of a habilitated doctor and 21 with a doctor’s degree. The scientific and engineering personnel of IETU represent a wide variety of scientific disciplines: ecology, biology, microbiology, environmental engineering, environmental chemistry, pharmacy, economics, physics, computer science, mathematics and environmental policy. Beside their basic professional education, many of IETU’s staff members have completed area-specific training or post-graduate studies both in Poland and during fellowships abroad. During its whole history the Institute has promoted over 10 associate professors and 37 doctors. Professors of the Institute were promoting many doctoral studies. They are members of scientific boards of universities and are active as didactic staff in Silesian academies. They also belong to scientific organisations (scientific committees of the Polish Academy of Sciences) and international organisations (Environmental Directorate of OECD).

Seventy percent of IETU’s staff speaks English.


Polish Thematic Network for Environmental Technologies

Polish Thematic Network for Problems of Air Pollution and Climate Change

U.S. EPA - Methane to LNG - Żory Coal Mine Project
Methane to LNG
Żory Coal Mine Project

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