Network Space has submitted a planning application to St Helens Borough Council for a £54million glass research and innovation facility.
Developed for Glass Futures Ltd, the proposed 160,000 sq ft Centre of Excellence will be the world’s first openly accessible, multi-disciplinary experimental glass melting facility for research and development trials. The facility will be used to deliver industry and government backed R&D projects aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of glass production and will provide a platform for industry to test and trial their own ideas, both collaboratively and individually.
The facility is being funded through a mix of public and private investment. A £15m UKRI grant has been secured for the installation of a globally unique, experimental furnace and state of the art infrastructure capable of producing 30 tonnes of glass per day and will enable the glass industry to implement change in a safe experimental space. Landowner and developer, Network Space, will secure private sector investment to support the construction costs alongside a £9m grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Glass sector companies will also contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment to support the project.
In addition to creating 80 new permanent jobs, the project will lead to much-needed apprenticeships, training and general up-skilling within the glass sector and attract further inward investment to the Region as leading international glass companies focus resources to be within geographical reach of the facility.
Catherine Chilvers, Development Director at Network Space, said: “As landowner and developer, we have worked in partnership with St Helen’s Council and Glass Futures over the past two years to rapidly progress the design and development of this transformational project for the Borough and in doing so, have established a hugely effective public/private sector delivery model.
“The submitted planning proposals will regenerate the former United Glassworks site and enable Government and industry led research activity and training opportunities. The facility will create new jobs and support the transition of R&D to commercial applications, acting as a catalyst for further economic growth within St Helens.”
Not-for-Profit organisation, Glass Futures Ltd, will operate the Centre of Excellence, its Chief Executive, Richard Katz, said: “The planning submission is a great step forward in creating a facility that will deliver innovative technologies to make glass net zero. The Centre of Excellence will help us work collaboratively with our members, the supply chain and academia to achieve that aim.”
Developments at the facility will also have profound implications for other foundation industries such as chemicals, ceramics, paper, steel and cement. What, for example, is discovered as a waste product in one sector could become a raw material in another. Innovations relating to energy efficiencies and a move away from using natural gas as a primary heating source could also be shared or harnessed.
Construction company, Bowmer + Kirkland, has been appointed as Stage 1 contractor following an open procurement process which was managed through the North West Construction Hub.