‘Groundbreaking’ Work on Liverpool City Region’s £54m Glass Futures project commences

7th February 2022

A major 12-month construction project to create a global centre of excellence for glassmaking innovation has now begun in Liverpool City Region’s St Helens borough.

l-r-Cllr-Gomez-Aspron-Bruce-Adderley-Catherine-Chivers-MP-Conor-McGinn-Kath-ODwyer-Cllr-David-Baines-Metro-Mayor-Steve-Rotheram-Richard Katz MP, Marie Rimmer, Lisa Harris, Cllr. Richard McCauley.

l-r: Cllr-Gomez Aspron, Bruce Adderley, Catherine Chivers MP, Conor McGinn, Kath ODwyer, Cllr David Baines, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, Richard Katz MP, Marie Rimmer, Lisa Harris, Cllr. Richard McCauley.

This Monday (7th February 2022) a groundbreaking ceremony took place on the 165,000 sq ft “transformational” global glass research and innovation facility that will create 80 new jobs in a town that has been associated with glassmaking for more than 200 years.

In December, site owner and developer Network Space Developments (NSD) appointed building contractor Bower & Kirkland to deliver the building at Saints Retail Park. It is expected to be completed in January 2023, ready for internal fit-out.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is investing £9m in the project with a further £15m coming from the Government’s UK Research and Innovation fund. Glass sector companies will contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment.

St Helens Council planning committee has granted planning permission for delivery of the £54million global glass research and innovation facility

St Helens Council commences construction on the £54million global glass research and innovation facility

It has been pre let to St Helens Council on a 15-year head lease and will be sub-let to Glass Futures, a not-for-profit research and technology body. It will deliver industry and Government-backed R&D projects focused on decarbonising glass production. Glass manufacturing is responsible for 2m tonnes of CO2 per year in the UK alone.

It will also provide a platform for the industry to access an experimental scale furnace to test and run trials for implementation at commercial scale on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.

Speaking at the event, St Helens Borough Council Leader, David Baines, said:

“It’s great to be here today to see construction begin on Glass Futures, the state-of-the-art, globally significant project. Over the next year, the glass research and innovation facility will be built on the brownfield site of the former United Glassworks, with a focus on decarbonising glass production.

“It will once again put St Helens at the forefront of glass innovation and help us play a significant role in the Green Industrial Revolution, leading the way for other industries to cut their carbon emissions.

“The fact that work has begun only two years since the scheme was conceived is testament to some exceptional partnership working, and I’d like to thank Glass Futures and everyone involved for their efforts in getting us to this stage.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, added:

“Just a few months ago, the UK hosted world leaders at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. It was agreed there that urgent action is needed to tackle the emergency we face from climate change. Glass Futures is a prime example of how we can do that – whilst also building back from the economic fallout from Covid-19.

“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.”

Catherine Chilvers, development director at Network Space, said:

“Today’s event was a notable milestone for the project and follows two years of dedicated partnership working between ourselves, Glass Futures, St Helens Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI.

“It is fantastic for all partners to see the works commencing on site as we transform a redundant former glass works site into a global R&D asset. The project will proudly secure St Helens at the forefront of glass innovation and sustainable glass production.’’

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was at the groundbreaking ceremony along with local Labour MPs Marie Rimmer and Connor McGinn, St Helens Council leader, David Baines and representatives of UKRI and BEIS.

St Helens has long been associated with glassmaking. In 1773, the British Caste Plate Glass Company was established at Ravenhead, now part of the town. In 1826 St Helens Crown Glass Company was founded by the Pilkington and Greenhall families.

In 1845 the name of the business was changed to Pilkington Brothers and the Pilkington name became famous across the world for glassmaking excellence. In June 2006, Japanese glassmaker Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) completed a £1.8bn takeover of the firm.

In August 2020, as part of the HyNet hydrogen project, Pilkington achieved a global first by firing 100% hydrogen in part of its furnace. This demonstrated that the full furnace could be run on the hydrogen blend, without compromising on quality standards or operational performance.

Glass Futures’ chief executive, Richard Katz, added:

“With the ground-breaking ceremony, Glass Futures has reached a real milestone in the delivery of its global centre of excellence for glass in R&D, innovation and training.

“Due for completion next year, we will be targeting the elimination of carbon from mass production in the glass industry, as well as other foundation industries.”

Visit the  Glass futures website.