An innovative research and technology centre that will help the global glass industry to create greener, cleaner products has officially opened.

Glass Futures £54m Global Centre of Excellence in St Helens will soon be home to a unique experimental furnace and other technology that will pioneer ways of making carbon neutral glass.

“I don’t let go in a hurry – and a decade after the idea of Glass Futures was first conceived, that dream has come to fruition,” Richard Katz, CEO of Glass Futures, told a launch event.

“Removing carbon emissions from global manufacturing is our world’s greatest challenge, and we need to change how we do things.

“The glass industry and the wider foundation industries (ceramics, steel, metal, chemicals, paper, and cement) need to decarbonise, to use energy sustainably and move away from natural gas as their main energy source.

“That’s why we exist and it’s thanks to the ongoing support of our founders, members, funders and supporters that we’re standing here today – but this really is just the start.”

The event, attended by over 100 guests, brought together Glass Futures members from around the world including glass manufacturers and university academics with funders and local politicians.

UK industrialist and vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Juergen Maier CBE, who was among the first supporters of Glass Futures, said: “We need to create new industries of the future, that’s the only way to ultimately create well paid jobs and prosperity.

“Many years ago, St Helens was innovative in the creation of the float glass process which today is pretty much the world standard… now we see glass manufacturers like Encirc developing hydrogen driven glass furnaces.

“These things are really difficult. They need engineering and standardising, and Glass Futures can help them to do that. We’re creating a new glass industry of the future…look around you, you can imagine the prosperity that all of that creates.”

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Guests were able to enjoy a lunch prepared by students at St Helens College then tour the new facility and see where the 30-tonne-per-day furnace will be installed ahead of its first firing planned for early 2024.

Aston Fuller, Glass Futures general manager, said: “It’s been great to see so many of our members and supporters and show them the new centre, especially as many of them have been with us on the journey.

“This opening marks a new chapter for Glass Futures with St Helens as our home. A key part of that for us is working with as many local partners as possible, supporting local businesses, creating jobs, and attracting new companies and start-ups to come and join us in the borough.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City region, added: “Building on St Helens’ proud legacy in the glassmaking industry, Glass Futures will help retain the borough’s position as a global centre of excellence. I’m proud that we’ve been able to help make it happen with £9m of city region funding.

“I have supported Glass Futures right from the very start, not just because it’s a great project but because it ticks so many boxes for us: decarbonisation of industry, clean energy, new well-paid jobs in a scheme that will make us a world leader.

“If we are to hit our ambitious targets to be net zero carbon by 2040 at the latest, at least a decade ahead of national targets, then we will need transformative projects like this to help us – and the planet – get there.”

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