Glass Futures has appointed Italian glass engineers Stara Glass to design its 30tonne/pd experimental Research & Development furnace – the core of Glass Futures Global Centre of Excellence being built in St Helens in the UK.

Stara Glass has confirmed its joining Glass Futures as an Affiliate Member to begin looking at technology development following the announcement that global drinks leaders Heineken and Diageo have also joined Glass Futures as Corporate Members.

The procurement process, led by Glass Futures’ Technical Steering Committee, involving senior representatives, from the global glass supply chain took several months looking through a number of excellent proposals before selecting Stara Glass to design the unique experimental furnace.

The 165,000ft2 Glass Futures’ Centre of Excellence is being built on a 14-acre site with the facility centred around a 30-tonne/pd low carbon demonstration furnace creating the world’s first openly accessible, multi-disciplinary glass melting facility.

This will have provision for research and development trials to establish new manufacturing techniques, raw materials and improved efficiencies whilst decarbonising the glass industry.

Stara Glass is part of the Hydra Group of companies which provides depth across the glass industry supply chain including equipment, construction, warm up, and R&D.

Based in Genoa, northern Italy, the Stara Glass team also has close ties with the city’s renowned university.

Peter Liggett, Glass Futures’ Capital Projects Manager said: “Stara Glass represented the best technical fit for Glass Futures and they demonstrated considerable enthusiasm to work on this ground-breaking project. We are looking forward to working with Stara to ensure we have the very best R&D furnace to lead our innovation work.”

Ernesto Cattaneo, Head of Computing and Innovation Projects at Stara Glass, added: “Normally, a glass furnace is commissioned and it runs continuously, as any downtime means a huge loss in production and profit. That is not the case here.

“The Glass Futures’ furnace is a world first and will be designed with multi-functionality in mind. It will need to use different fuels such as methane, hydrogen, biofuels and electricity and have multiple test areas; it will be like a playground for glass engineers. There has never been anything like this before and that is what’s so innovative about Glass Futures’ vision for the industry.”

Glass Futures is a not-for-profit research and technology organisation building the £54m Global Centre of Excellence for Glass R&D, Innovation and Training in St Helens, in the north west of England.

The facility is set to connect the glass industry and academia to deliver exportable R&D and innovation, as well as training and up-skilling opportunities, ensuring glass making’s future is built on sustainable, recyclable, carbon-zero products.