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Top Defra civil servant visits University of York campus

Posted on 3 February 2022

A senior official from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) visited the University of York’s campus to view our cutting-edge waste management research facilities.

DEFRA Permanent Secretary visit James ChongThe Permanent Secretary (centre) met Professor James Chong (right) and Professor Sarah Thompson (left) to view the System-60 anaerobic digesters.

Tamara Finkelstein, the most high-ranking civil servant at Defra, visited the Department of Biology today (Thursday 3 February) to find out more about how we are working in partnership with Yorkshire Water to develop anaerobic digestion (AD) processes to recover resources from waste.

Professor James Chong greeted the Permanent Secretary and began the visit with a tour of the research facilities at the Centre for Excellence for Anaerobic Digestion (CEAD).

She also met with Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery, to hear more about the BioYorkshire Initiative.

She was also briefed on other CEAD-related activities at York, including the Biorenewables Development Centre, the Circular Malton and Norton Biogas Plant, and other Water Monitoring technology.

Vital technology

CEAD is a partnership between the University and Yorkshire Water and is part of a £1.2m project that enables greater understanding of the processes behind anaerobic digestion (AD). 

AD turns waste materials into renewable energy and nutrient-rich fertiliser. It is seen as a vital technology in increasing the sustainability of industry and reducing carbon emissions, while helping the region shift to a low-carbon economy.

The Permanent Secretary was shown the globally unique 'System-60' anaerobic digesters in the Department of Biology.

BioYorkshire is a ten year-project which brings together scientists and industry experts from the University of York, Askham Bryan College and Fera Science Ltd. It aims to transform Yorkshire into the UK’s hub for green innovation and enterprise, while supporting the region’s ambitions to become carbon negative.

The project will develop bio-based supplies of fuel, chemicals and materials, working with the region’s farmers and agricultural industries to drive innovation, and enable more productive and sustainable crop production and land use.

Strong partnerships

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery told attendees: "We are delighted to have the Permanent Secretary and colleagues from Defra here along with Yorkshire Water. It has been fantastic to be able to meet in person to demonstrate the emerging dynamism of this area."

Permanent Secretary of DEFRA, Tamara Finkelstein said: "I’ve been really interested in anaerobic digestion research and wanted to find out more about some of the partnerships and incentives around this area. It’s been absolutely fantastic and completely fascinating, and I’m grateful for everybody’s time today."

Professor James Chong said: "It's been amazing to have the opportunity to talk with Defra about our research into optimising resource recovery from wastes. Through our partnerships with companies like Yorkshire Water, we are able to adapt our research and results so that they can be rapidly deployed in the real world and contribute to the UK's net carbon zero goals." 

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Tom Creese
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