A GROUNDBREAKING project that aims to revolutionise glass production in St Helens has received a £9 million funding boost today.

Glass Futures, a national centre of excellence for glass innovation, aims to ultimately, eliminate CO2 from glass production.

The pioneering scheme 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.

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If delivered, the £54 million project will have the first and only experimental furnace of its kind in the world with provision for research and development trials to decarbonise the UK glass industry.

It is also one of several nationally significant projects included in the Liverpool City Region’s £1.4 billion ‘Building Back Better’ economic recovery plan.

St Helens Borough Council has already agreed to provide up to £900,000 support to help to develop the idea from a concept to a reality.

The council is also exploring other ways of supporting the development by taking a lease on the building, which is earmarked for land next to St Helens R.F.C.’s Totally Wicked Stadium.

And at its meeting on Friday, the combined authority signed off £9 million for the project,  for the development of trial space and headquarters, from its Strategic Investment Fund.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “As colleagues know, our borough is world-renowned for glass manufacturing and delivery of the plan will ensure that this continues to be the case by delivering Glass Futures, which would be the world’s first openly accessible, commercially available, multi-disciplinary glass melting facility, with provision for research and development trials to decarbonise the UK’s glass industry.

“Myself and colleagues here in St Helens are also very glad to see that as well as supporting businesses, and bringing forward exciting growth projects, this economic recovery plan has people at its heart.

“We simply must make the most of this opportunity to address long-standing and systemic health and social inequalities, both within our region and the nation as a whole.

“So I fully endorse this plan’s asks of Government to give us the tools at a local level to help people with programmes of support to get people and our economy back on their feet stronger than before.”

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said Glass Futures will have a global impact, but questioned whether the messaging was on point.

Mr Rotheram said: “I think we need to come up with something a bit snappier for what that project is. Glass Futures really doesn’t do it justice.

“It is one of the most exciting projects nationally and we need to be able to articulate just how innovative this approach is going to be and the benefits, not just to St Helens or the city region, but to the planet.”

St Helens Star: Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram

The Liverpool City Region’s economic recovery plan was endorsed by all the council leaders across the combined authority today.

The plan asks the Government for £1.4 billion to help deliver projects that city region chiefs say will unlock £8.8 billion to help kickstart the UK’s economic recovery post-COVID.

Mr Rotheram said the plan will help create more than 100,000 jobs and help support 26,000 into employment.

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He said the projects were “oven ready”, with the majority able to begin within next 12 weeks.

Mr Rotheram said: “We do know that everything is not going to happen overnight but I think with the leaders I’m determined to make sure that it won’t be a lack of effort that stops us coming back stronger and better from this coronavirus.

“We need to make a partnership with central Government and hopefully they’ll look at what we’ve proposed to them and look favourably at some of those fantastic projects that we’ve already said could be kicked off very, very quickly with their assistance.”