Key industry players will meet in St Helens today (28 February) to discuss a new national centre of excellence for glass innovation.
The Liverpool City Region borough is one of two UK locations chosen to become home to the £70 million Glass Futures scheme, bringing the glass industry and academia together.
The University of Leeds’ research and innovation campus in West Yorkshire is the second earmarked location.
Pilkington Glass is among the major glass manufacturers forming the consortium, and in early 2018 it was announced the firm’s mothballed line at Watson Street in St Helens – home to Pilkington texture glass and Plikington Profilit – is the preferred location to focus on the ‘hot’ side of glass production through the initiative.
This would see the installation of a large experimental glass furnace capable of producing 30 tonnes of product per day for windows, buildings, bottles and fibre glass.
The site in St Helens is expected to create around 50 jobs directly, with hundreds of further indirect jobs.
In December, the government announced a £66m fund for ‘transforming foundation industries’ which would be accessible to the sectors of glass, ceramics, chemicals, steel and cement as well as a £170m fund to support the industries in reducing carbon emissions. It’s hoped Glass Futures will receive funding from these sources.
Today’s meeting at St Helens’ World of Glass Museum will see industry representatives including Pilkington Glass come together with academics from universities including Leeds and Cambridge to discuss the final design and operating model, ahead of further discussion with the government.
Councillor Derek Long, leader of St Helens Council, says: “As a borough we have witnessed a remarkable increase in jobs over recent years and have the second highest jobs growth in the North.
“Our commitment, however, is not just to attract a volume of jobs, but to also attract good quality manufacturing jobs too.
“Hence why Glass Futures is so important. I’ve been to London this week to meet with officials from Innovate UK to stress how committed we are in St Helens to make this project happen and I am looking forward to taking part in some of the industry discussions that will happen [this] week.
“St Helens has been able to secure support for the project from a range of sources due to the strong local commitment to making this project happen, as shown at a St Helens Ambassador event held last year in the World of Glass to welcome the industry and demonstrate how important the project is to St Helens.”
David Dalton, chief executive of British Glass which is also among the industry representatives in the Glass Futures consortium, adds: “We’ve had great support from St Helens Council in developing the Glass Futures project and are looking forward to discussions in the borough.
“It’s an important project for the whole of the UK glass sector and being able to work with a place that really understands glass is a great advantage.”