Network Space Developments (NSD) has appointed Bowmer + Kirkland to build the £54million Global Centre of Excellence at Saints Retail Park in St Helen’s.

The site, previously the former United Glassworks which closed in the late 1990’s, was later developed in part by NSD for a new stadium for St Helens Rugby League which opened in 2011.  Site preparation and earthworks carried out to the balance of the site to advance delivery will shortly complete and in January 2022, Bowmer + Kirkland will start construction of the transformational global glass research and innovation facility. The 165,000 sq.ft scheme is expected to complete in January 2023 ready for Glass Futures to fit-out.

The facility will be occupied and managed by not-for-profit research organisation Glass Futures and used to deliver industry and government backed R&D projects focused on decarbonising glass production. It will also provide a platform for the industry to access an experimental scale furnace to test and run trials for implementation at commercial scale on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.

The project delivery was conceived and managed by landowner and developer NSD, on behalf of a partnership including Glass Futures and the global glass industry, St Helens MBC, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI (UK Research & Innovation). This dynamic and fast-moving partnership has rapidly turned the Glass Futures concept into a deliverable and contracted scheme in less than two years. NSD will continue to manage the delivery of the project through to practical completion. The building has been presold by NSD to Global Investor Abrdn to secure forward funding and conclude a viable delivery strategy.  Property Agent B8 acted for Network Space.

Bowmer & Kirkland starting on site within just two years of the Glass Futures scheme being first conceived is testament to our own commitment to the project and that of an exceptional partnership formed between ourselves, Glass Futures, St Helens MBC, the Combined Authority and UKRI.  Everyone has worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we are grateful to all for all their efforts. It will be truly fantastic to see a redundant former glass works site being transformed into a global R&D hub, once again securing St Helen’s position at the forefront of glass innovation and the transition to zero carbon glass production.

Said Catherine Chilvers, Development Director at Network Space

In addition to creating some 80 new permanent jobs, the project will lead to much-needed apprenticeships, training and general up-skilling within the glass and similar industrial sectors. It is also set to attract further inward investment to the region as leading international glass companies focus resources to be within geographical reach of the facility.

Starting on site is monumental, it enables the delivery of a global test-bed facility to develop processes to make glass the most sustainable and recyclable material available. The research, innovations and energy efficiencies we deliver here can be shared and harnessed by all global glass applications including packaging, glazing and glass fibre as well as across other foundation industries. This Global Centre of Excellence will enable us to work collaboratively with our members, the supply chain and academia to ultimately achieve zero carbon glass.

Said Glass Futures’ Chief Executive, Richard Katz