Last Friday, 4 February 2022, saw the ground-breaking of the Glass Futures’ Global Centre of Excellence in St Helens.
The £54 million project will create the world’s first openly accessible test and trial furnace facility, which will be used to deliver industry and government-backed R&D projects focused on decarbonising glass production, and also providing a platform for industry to test and trial their own commercial ideas on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.
Based in the traditional centre of the UK glass making industry in St Helens, Glass Futures is a unique, industry-backed Research and Technology Organisation, leading collaboration across some of the largest companies in the global glass industry and its supply chain, together with academia and local and central government.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:
“Just a few months ago, the UK hosted world leaders at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. It was agreed there that urgent action is needed to tackle the emergency we face from climate change. Glass Futures is a prime example of how we can do that – whilst also building back from the economic fallout from Covid-19.
“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 in the future of the industry as it decarbonises, whilst being a key driver for jobs and skills.”
Speaking at the ground-breaking event, St Helens Borough Council Leader, David Baines, said:
“It’s great to be here today to see construction begin on Glass Futures, the state-of-the-art, globally significant project. Over the next year, the glass research and innovation facility will be built on the brownfield site of the former United Glassworks, with a focus on decarbonising glass production.
“It will once again put St Helens at the forefront of glass innovation and help us play a significant role in the Green Industrial Revolution, leading the way for other industries to cut their carbon emissions.
“The fact that work has begun only two years since the scheme was conceived is testament to some exceptional partnership working, and I’d like to thank Glass Futures and everyone involved for their efforts in getting us to this stage.”
The project has been awarded a £9m grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and secured a £15m UKRI grant to support the installation of a globally unique, experimental furnace and state of the art infrastructure, capable of melting 30 tonnes of glass per day in a safe experimental space. Glass sector companies will also contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment to support the project.
The 165,000 sq ft transformational global glass research and innovation facility is expected to complete in January 2023, ready for fit-out. It is being delivered by Network Space Developments (NSD) at Saints Retail Park. Occupying a site with links to the historic glass industry for which the town is famed, where NSD has in-part redeveloped this former United Glassworks site as a new stadium for St Helens Rugby League.
Delivery of the project was conceived and is being managed by landowner and developer NSD, on behalf of a partnership including not-for-profit research organisation Glass Futures, St Helens Borough Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI (UK Research & Innovation). This dynamic and fast-moving partnership has rapidly turned the Glass Futures concept into a deliverable and contracted scheme in less than two years. NSD will continue to manage the delivery of the project through to practical completion.
The Centre’s construction will bring a host of social and economic benefits to St Helens and the wider Liverpool City Region including:
- 50% of people working on the project coming from within the Liverpool City Region
- 50% of project spend being local
- 735 apprenticeship hours for the duration of the project and beyond
- A commitment to saving 1000tn of CO2 emissions
- 100 volunteer hours committed to local ‘green’ projects.