£40m glass research facility to boost innovation in sector

A new £40-million research facility that will include the first experimental glass furnace is set to be built in St Helens to boost innovation in the glass manufacturing sector.

The project, known as ‘Glass Futures’, will be unveiled at a glass industry conference – ‘Glass – the future and £60 million funding’ – on 23 July, which will bring together industry stakeholders from across the UK and Europe to discuss how the project can be used to direct research into clean fuels and innovation across the £1.6-billion UK glass sector and supply chain.

£40m glass research facility to boost innovation in sectorGlass Futures, which will be run as a not-for-profit company and receive £40 million from the sector, will be based on the former United Glass site in St Helens, which will see an experimental furnace able to produce 30 tonnes of glass a day to research and develop innovative ways of reducing the environmental footprint of the glass manufacturing process. Further funding will be distributed to research centres along the M62 ‘glass corridor’ where some of the largest glass manufacturers have bases.

The innovative furnace, the first and only one of its type in the world, will also explore technologies such as waste heat recovery, low-carbon fuel sources, novel raw materials, advanced process control systems, carbon capture and storage technologies and new glass materials.

It is hoped that Glass Futures will eventually develop new products and processes on an industrial scale. Other industries such as concrete and steel will be invited to have neighbouring bases to facilitate cross-sector working. The project is set to create up to 50 jobs on site and another 1,000 jobs in the supply chain.

It is anticipated that the Glass Futures site could be up and running within a year from its commissioning, with pilot furnace trials taking place from the end of 2020. The project will initially be managed by Glass Technology Services, while funding will come from both industry and government. The project has already been in receipt of government funding from the Northern Powerhouse and the UK Research and Innovation’s ‘Strength in Places’ fund.

Commenting on the project, Dave Dalton, Chief Executive of British Glass, the representative body for the glass industry in the UK, said: “By bringing together the best brains across the foundation industries we can put Britain at the forefront of cleaner, greener manufacturing globally, and help the country meets its carbon targets in line with the Government’s Industrial Strategy objectives.”

Councillor Richard McCauley, St Helens Council's Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Housing, said of the decision to place the project in St Helens: “St Helens is a place which encapsulates industry to ingenuity. We are a borough built on innovation – in glass, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, and we can achieve such transformations again in the future.

“By combining the knowledge we have of the industry, we can be part of that innovation – and this event will demonstrate how important the Glass Futures project is to St Helens Borough.”

Glass Futures conference

The upcoming ‘Glass – the future and £60 million funding’ conference will see industry experts from across the glass sector come together to set the agenda for how the Glass Futures project can help boost productivity and reduce the environmental footprint of the sector.

Richard Katz, Director of Glass Futures, said: “I invite anyone with a business or an interest in the glass sector or the supply chain to join me for one of the most important glass sector events of the year –  ‘Glass – the future and £60million funding’. This conference will shape the future of the glass sector, its research into clean fuels, and its manufacturing productivity for the next century.

“If you want your business to be involved, and to benefit from this world-leading centre, then please make sure you are there.”

More information on the ‘Glass – the future and £60 million funding’ conference, contact Sue Coffey at British Glass at [email protected].