Glass Futures Centre of Excellence: Decarbonising glass production

UK Research and Innovation has invested £45m in a new global glass research and innovation project, focusing on decarbonising glass production.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) representatives joined local leaders in St Helens to mark the ground breaking of a new Glass Futures Centre of Excellence, a £45m project funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, directed by UKRI.

This extraordinary 165,000 square foot transformational global glass research and innovation facility is currently being built, with construction scheduled to be finished in January 2023.

The building of this centre is expected to bring vast economic and social benefits to St Helens, as well as the Liverpool City region, with advantages such as:

  • 50% of the project workers will be from the Liverpool City region;
  • 50% of spending on the project will be local;
  • 735 apprenticeship hours for the duration of the project and beyond;
  • A commitment to saving 1000 tonnes of CO2 emissions; and
  • 100 volunteer hours committed to local ‘green’ projects.

Decarbonising glass production

Glass Futures will reside in and oversee the construction to provide industry and government- backed R&D projects centred on decarbonising glass production.

As well as this, it will offer the industry a platform to access an experimental scale furnace to test and conduct trials for application at commercial scale on a trailblazing line, both collaboratively and individually.

Towards the global green industrial revolution

David Baines, St Helens Borough Council Leader, said: “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.”

Green jobs in a green economy

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.”

Green technology for a net zero future

Bruce Adderley, Challenge Director of UKRI’s transforming foundation industries challenge, explained: “The goal of the transforming foundation industries challenge is to help energy and resource intensive industries such as glass, steel, cement, ceramics, paper, and chemicals develop new green technologies and more efficient ways of working together.

“This event at St Helens is an important milestone on the road to achieving this aim which is essential if the UK and its regions are to deliver world-leading net zero carbon clusters.

“As we progress with its development, this global centre of excellence will support the glass and other foundation industries in their transitions to more efficient, productive, and environmentally conscious operating models.”

Towards zero carbon glass production

Catherine Chilvers, Development Director at NSD, commented: “This event was a true milestone and follows two years of committed hard work between ourselves, Glass Futures, St Helens Borough Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI.

“It is fantastic to be here at the transformation of this site, once again putting St Helens on the map at the forefront of glass innovation.

“This Centre of Excellence will be a huge step towards the transition to zero carbon glass production.”

Reaching an innovation milestone

Glass Futures’ Chief Executive, Richard Katz, concluded: “With the ground-breaking ceremony, Glass Futures has reached a real milestone in the delivery of its Global Centre of Excellence for glass in research and development, 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.

“For the future of mankind, itis essential the world wakes up to the damage itis doing to itself and collectively acts now to dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions whether from industry, transport, agriculture or domestic heating.

“The Glass Futures’ hot glass experimental facility is a substantial stepping stone to cutting emissions, designed to work both collaboratively or privately with industry to identify and deliver sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.

“We welcome any approaches from potential industrial partners who want to join us on this journey.”

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