A PROJECT to create a pioneering national centre of excellence for glass innovation in St Helens has moved a step closer after receiving a funding boost.

The groundbreaking facility could be developed at the site near to Saints' stadium as part of the Glass Futures project.

The location was unveiled last year as the preferred site following meetings with international glass industry figures which took place at the World of Glass in St Helens.

The centre of excellence for glass innovation, that aims to revolutionise and ultimately eliminate CO2 from glass production – is set to take a step closer with £9m of funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and investment from St Helens Council.

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 government.

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It will bring together researchers and industry experts, such as British Glass and Glass Technology Institute; O-I Glass; Guardian Glass; and Siemens, together at a hot glass site.

Glass manufacturing practices are currently responsible for 2 million tonnes of CO2 per annum in the UK alone and the 90,000 square foot facility will be centred around a 30 tonne/day low carbon demonstration furnace. The project will create the world’s first openly accessible, commercially available, multi-disciplinary glass melting facility with provision for research and development trials to decarbonise the UK glass industry.

St Helens Star:

What the facility could look like from Peasley Cross Lane

The £54m project – which will have the first and only experimental furnace of its kind in the world – has been highlighted as a key project to driving economic recovery in the Liverpool City Region’s £1.4b ‘Building Back Better’ economic recovery plan for the whole city region, published last week.

Now, the project is set to benefit from an immediate £9m funding boost from the Combined Authority’s Strategic Investment Fund, to be considered by the authority tomorrow (Friday 31 July).

St Helens Council has agreed to provide up to £900,000 support to help to develop the idea from a concept to a reality, and is also exploring other ways of supporting the development by taking a lease on the building which would be on land next to Saints' Totally Wicked Stadium.

St Helens Star:

The proposed site for the project

St Helens Borough Council leader David Baines, said: “St Helens is a borough with a proud industrial heritage. We have a magnificent legacy of industrial innovation, especially in the glass industry.

“While we are proud of our history, Glass Futures is all about innovation and looking to the future, and we want our borough to be at the very heart of this exciting project. St Helens Borough Council is committed to helping to make it happen and this latest funding decision from the City Region will be very welcome. The Glass Futures project will put St Helens on the regional, national and international stage.”

St Helens Star:

Cllr David Baines

Metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram added: “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 in the future of the industry as it decarbonises, whilst being a key driver for jobs and skills.

“Taking Glass Futures forward is a prime example of the kind of partnership that the Combined Authority, our local authorities, the private sector, and academia can forge to create world class facilities in our city region and Build Back Better from COVID-19.”

St Helens Star:

A CGI of the view from St Helens Linkway

Cllr Richard McCauley, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and housing, said: “We have worked hard with the glass industry, Glass Futures and other partners, to have this project located in St Helens – the birth place of industrial glass making. Glass Futures will put us at the centre of glass making for decades to come innovating manufacturing techniques, and reducing greenhouse gasses in the process, with the many spin off and supply chain opportunities that will develop over time.”

And Cllr Kate Groucutt, deputy portfolio holder for inclusive economy and third sector for the Liverpool City Region, added: "Glass Futures is a great example of how the Strategic Investment Fund is helping to kickstart projects that generate good jobs and support key industries across the region. Alongside ongoing investment in public transport and road projects here in St Helens, it demonstrates how Councils are working side by side with the Liverpool City Region to support our economic recovery.”

The site in St Helens could create around 50 high skilled jobs directly, with hundreds of indirect jobs in total and will kick-start investment into the area.

A public consultation on Glass Futures is expected to launch later this year before a planning application is submitted in early 2021.