St Helens Glass Futures
Initial site works have started at the Glass Futures centre

Glass Futures bags further £15m backing

Neil Tague

The development of a 158,000 sq ft, £54m R&D facility for the glass industry, next to St Helens’ rugby league stadium, has received a major funding boost with £15m committed by central Government.

In August, it was announced that the centre would receive £9m from Liverpool City Region, secured from Whitehall’s Getting Building Fund. The funding announced this week comes from the Government as part of UK Research & Innovation’s Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge.

Place North West understands that a further £20m is to come from the Glass Futures organisation and global glass industry, with the remainder coming from the combined efforts of St Helens Council and developer and landowner Network Space in securing private investment.

Glass Futures, a not-for-profit industry organisation that earlier this year secured a £7.1m BEIS contract to investigate alternatives to gas in glass production, and the industry group is expected to provide resource, time and equipment to support the future operation of the facility,

Initial building design work for the factory has already started, funded by St Helens Borough Council. Once designs are completed and taken through planning, the intention is to start construction in 2021.

The development at the 14-acre site will revive a site once home to United Glass. The facility will be centred around a 30 tonne per day – equivalent to 60,000 wine bottles – low carbon demonstration furnace.

This is billed as the world’s first openly accessible, commercially available, multi-disciplinary glass melting facility with provision for R&D trials to establish new manufacturing techniques, raw materials, improved efficiencies whilst decarbonising the glass industry. The site is expected to create around 50 skilled jobs directly.

Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Merseyside has a long and rich history in glass manufacturing, and so I am pleased that this £54m investment will launch a new era in highly efficient, low-carbon glass production.

“This new funding will build on our commitment to cut emissions across heavy industry, create green collar jobs on Merseyside and help us to build back greener.”

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said: “This project is a prime example of how we can build on our strengths as a city region to drive our economic recovery. St Helens has always been a global leader in the glass industry and Glass Futures will be a key part of making sure it retains that role.”

The £15m UKRI grant will be used to install a collaboratively designed experimental furnace and infrastructure capable of producing 30 tonnes of glass per day. This line will enable Glass Futures’ members and researchers to work together with academia to test alternative fuels, new raw materials, Industry 4.0 concepts, demonstrate new products and develop new processes.

Richard Katz, chief executive of Glass Futures, said: “The world as a whole needs to move to low carbon and highly efficient processes, but this change does not come without investment, both in time and money.

“No single organisation can enable a global shift in industrial practice, but Glass Futures has begun to show a new path to collaboratively pooling knowledge, resources, and effort. We sincerely thank all our members and supporters who are helping realise an ambitious and game changing facility.”

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This is the kind of investment St Helens is in need of, not more sheds. Will bring good quality jobs, apprenticeships etc with longevity. More stuff like this please.

By Dori