• £54 million funding will develop a glass R&D facility in St Helens, reviving the region’s historic glass production industry
  • Investment will go towards developing innovative green technologies to help make glass production more productive and environmentally-friendly
  • Funding is latest step in helping industry reduce their emissions and build back greener from coronavirus  

The Liverpool City Region will benefit from £54 million investment to revitalise its glass industry and support the region’s economic recovery.

The funding will be used to establish a state-of-the-art glass furnace R&D facility in St Helens, reviving the closed United Glass facility. The plant will be capable of producing 30 tonnes of sustainable glass a day – equivalent to 60,000 wine bottles or 750 Double Glazed Units – Glass which is typically used in products such as jars, bottles, windows doors and fibre glass.

Of the £54 million package investment to revive the local industry, £15 million is direct investment from the UK Government as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge. The remaining funding is being provided by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, St Helens Borough Council and Glass Futures, a not-for-profit organisation. 

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: 

“Merseyside has a long and rich history in glass manufacturing, and so I am pleased that this £54m investment – including £15m Government funding – will launch a new era in highly efficient, low-carbon glass production. 

“This new funding will build on our commitment to cut emissions across heavy industry, create green collar jobs on Merseyside and help us to build back greener.” 

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said:

“This project is a prime example of how we can build on our strengths as a city region to drive our economic recovery. 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.

“Taking Glass Futures forward is a prime example of the kind of partnership that the Combined Authority, our local authorities, Government, the private sector, and academia can forge to create world class facilities in our city region and Build Back Better from Covid-19.”

The Government’s £15 million investment will be used to buy specialist equipment to improve energy and resource efficiency, research alternative raw materials, and boost productivity and training.

Initial building design work for the factory has already commenced, funded by St Helens Borough Council. Following completion of the design and winning of planning approval, construction is planned to start in 2021.

Today’s funding follows on from July’s announcement of £350 million to cut emissions in heavy industry and accelerate the UK’s economic recovery. The multi million-pound investment is playing a vital role in helping businesses to decarbonise across the heavy industry, construction, space and transport sectors and to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of green innovation.

Other contributors to St Helen’s glass project include:

  • Alongside UKRI funding and the support of St Helens Borough Council, landowner and developer Network Space;
  • Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, which is aiming to provide a further £9m for works to make the building suitable; and
  • Glass sector companies will contribute a further £20m of funding resulting in a total investment of £54m

Leader of St Helens Borough Council, Councillor David Baines, said:

“Given our proud heritage and history in glassmaking, it’s only fitting that St Helens borough is fully involved in the future of the industry. Glass Futures will see global innovation, training and research and development happen here in our borough, with the potential to drive further economic growth.

“We are delighted to see this vital project getting a further £15m in backing from UK Research and Innovation along with support from ourselves, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and the glass industry to make this vision become a reality.

“This development will rejuvenate a brownfield site which has a history in glass manufacturing, and I am sure that Glass Futures will prove to be a catalyst for further investment in a place that has always been a world leader in the glass industry.”


Additional comments:

Bruce Adderley, interim Challenge Director of the Transforming Foundation Industries challenge, said:

The goal of the TFI challenge is to help energy-intensive industries such as glass, steel, ceramics and chemicals develop new green technologies and more efficient ways of working together. The UK aspires to create the world’s first ‘net-zero’ carbon cluster of heavy industry and the facility at St Helens is an important contribution to this ambitious project. Once up and running it will help the glass industry in its transition to a more efficient, productive and environmentally-conscious operating model.

Glass Futures’ Director, Richard Katz, said:

This £15m funding is an essential catalyst to kickstart the delivery of Glass Futures’ £54m Global Centre of Excellence in St Helens, an area rich in glass history. The state-of-the-art facility will enable Glass Futures and its members to work collaboratively to research and develop innovative solutions enhancing resource efficiency, moving the industry closer to sustainable low-carbon glass production and increasing productivity. With this grant, UKRI recognises the importance glass has to play in a future to be built on sustainable, fully recyclable, low-carbon products manufactured with highly efficient processes.

Network Space Development Director, Catherine Chilvers, said:

As landowner and developer, Network Space has been working closely with St Helens MBC and Glass Futures to progress the design and development of the project and establish a public/private partnership investment model.

Glass Futures is a not-for-profit organisation that is committed to occupying this new 160,000 sq. ft global research and development facility on a brownfield site  with deep rooted historic links to the glass industry, once again creating jobs in this important industry sector. Funding from UKRI is crucial and we are delighted that the scheme is attracting the attention and backing it deserves.

The economic and growth impacts to the Liverpool City Region also should not be under estimated. The primary focus of this facility is to advance Government and Industry led R&D activity and training opportunities to support innovation, knowledge transfer, entrepreneurship and the transition of R&D to commercial applications. This grant brings that goal a step closer.

Additional information

  • Glass Futures connects the glass industry and academia to create an industry cluster to ensure increased productivity and sustainability in the sector.
    The glass manufacturing facility in St Helens will be researching glass processes, its components and raw materials to produce sustainable, fully recyclable, low-carbon glass that is typically used in everyday and industry products such as bottles, jars, windows and doors and even fibre glass
  • Today’s funding is the largest single item from UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industry (TFI) Wave 3 Challenge budget of £66m across four years. The TFI programme aims to help energy-intensive foundation businesses to share expertise, adapt to new technology and create radical new innovations to help reduce their carbon footprint.
  • The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) brings together the UK’s world-leading research base with our best businesses to transform how we live, work and move around. It will put the UK in the best position to take advantage of future market opportunities.
  • The Transforming Foundation Industries programme through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will help energy-intensive businesses to share expertise and come up with radical new innovations to help reduce their carbon footprint.
    The programme will inject significant new public and industry innovation funding into the foundation industries, helping us deliver against our vision of a cutting edge, innovative and sustainable industrial sector. £66m will be provided by the government and £83 million will come from industry.
  • On 22 July 2020, PM Boris Johnson announced that UK industry would receive around £350 million to cut down carbon emissions under new plans to step up efforts to tackle climate change.
    The projects set to receive funding will work on developing new technologies that could help companies switch to more energy-efficient means of production, use data more effectively to tackle the impacts of climate change, and help support the creation of new green jobs by driving innovation and growth in UK industries.
    The package included £149 million to drive the use of innovative materials in heavy industry, including 13 initial project proposals to re use waste ask in the glass and ceramics industry.