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Shaping the future

A new £40 million research facility will drive glass industry innovation beyond the next century

Glass sector plans for a multi-million pound research centre are about to be revealed. The project, known as Glass Futures, will be formally unveiled at a glass industry conference on July 23, to be attended by sector bosses from across the UK and Europe.

The £40 million centre, to be located at St Helens, will shape the way forward for the industry over the next century – while further funding will be channelled into research institutes along the M62 ‘glass corridor’ where some of the sector’s largest manufacturers are based. 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.”

Dalton has been working, behind the scenes, for almost a decade on the Glass Futures initiative. The centre, to be run as a not-for-profit company on the former United Glass site, will feature the first and only experimental furnace of its kind in the world. It will initially produce 30 tonnes of glass a day to research and develop innovative ways of reducing the environmental footprint of glass manufacturing processes. It 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.

Manufacturing furnaces typically have a capacity of 300 to 800 tonnes production per day, and the smaller furnace will provide much greater flexibility in innovation and reduce the risk associated with trials on a larger scale.

Glass Futures will eventually develop new products and processes on an industrial scale, cutting both development time and risks for the next generation of glassmakers and entrepreneurs. Other foundation 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. Funding is expected to come from both industry and Government, with the project managed initially by Glass Technology Services.

Project organisers are also working with The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on their ‘Industrial Fuel Switching Project’ to identify alternative low carbon energy sources. 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.”

The upcoming conference will see 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.”

For more information, contact Sue Coffey at British Glass at: s.coffey@britglass.co.uk

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