PILKINGTON'S Watson Street Works has been earmarked as the site of a new centre of excellence for glass.

The mothballed line at the Watson Street works is being considered by the £50m Glass Futures project - with 50 jobs to be created by the centre.

The facility is one of two twin centres planned with the other set for the University of Leeds' new research and innovation campus in West Yorkshire.

The project will see facilities bring together world class experts to carry out research into energy and emissions reduction, glass formulation and new high-tech products.

If it goes ahead, the St Helens site would focus on the ‘hot’ side of glass production, with a large experimental glass furnace capable of producing 30 tonnes of product per day for windows, bottles or fibre glass.

Research would concentrate on raw materials and alternative energy sources to reduce carbon and other emissions by more than 80 per cent.

The Leeds site would focus on the ‘cold’ side of glass production, with research into coatings, structure and the use of glass in medicine.

Glass Futures is a not for profit company specifically set up by the industry to bring industry and academia together.

The £50m project brings industry and academia together in a consortium including many major glass companies and universities with half the project cost expected to come from industry with matched funding sought from government.

St Helens' history is steeped in the glass making industry, with the town being home to manufacturing giant Pilkingtons, founded in 1826.

Leader of St Helens Council Barrie Grunewald said: "The location is fitting due to our heritage and experience in glass making.

"We can look back on a proud legacy of glass, but we also want to look to the future and be at the vanguard of new developments in the glass industry.

"By combining the knowledge we have of the industry with the knowledge our university academics have we can be part of that innovation.”

Glass Futures director Richard Katz added: “The glass industry has amazing potential for growth and, by bringing academics, manufacturers and technology companies together, we can grasp that potential and bring real benefits to the UK economy.