Go-ahead for £54m glass futures and 80 new jobs

A new £54m Merseyside global centre of excellence for the glass industry has secured planning consent and will create 80 new jobs. Tony McDonough reports

Glass Futures
Glass Futures in St Helens will be a global centre of excellence


A proposal for a £54m global glass research and innovation facility has secured planning approval.

St Helens Council has given the go-ahead for the 160,000 sq ft ‘global centre of excellence’ at Saints Retail Park. The facility will be used to deliver industry and Government-backed R&D projects focused on decarbonising glass production.

The planning application for Glass Futures was prepared and submitted by developer and landowner Network Space, on behalf of not-for-profit research and technology organisation Glass Futures,.

It will also provide a platform for industry to test and trial their own commercial ideas. Construction company, Bowmer + Kirkland, has been appointed to build Glass Futures following an open procurement process through the North West Construction Hub.

Work is expected to begin on site in July this year and will complete by December 2022. The project delivery is led by Network Space on behalf of a partnership created between Glass Futures, the global glass supply chain, Network Space, St Helens Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI (UK Research and Innovation).

It will be funded through a mix of public and private investment. Glass Futures has secured a £15m UKRI grant to support the installation of an experimental furnace and infrastructure capable of melting 30 tonnes of glass per day in a safe experimental space.

Network Space will secure private sector investment and has been awarded a £9m grant from the Liverpool city region’s ‘Build Back Better’ fund to support the construction costs. Glass sector companies will contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment and St Helens Council will take a head lease.

In addition to creating 80 new permanent jobs, the project will offer apprenticeships, training and general up-skilling within the glass and similar industrial sectors. It is also set to attract further inward investment to the region as leading international glass companies focus resources to be within geographical reach of the facility.

Glass Futures’ chief executive, Richard Katz, said: “Today’s decision is fantastic news. It enables the delivery of a test-bed facility to develop processes to make glass the most sustainable and recyclable material solution available.

“The research, innovations and energy efficiencies we deliver here can be shared and harnessed by all glass applications including packaging, glazing and glass fibre, as well as across other foundation industries.”

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