The £50 million project will unite industry and academia, including Guardian Glass (USA), the University of Leeds, Siemens and Swarovski. Half of the project cost is expected to come from the industry with matched funding sought from Government.
Richard Katz, the Director of Glass Futures, said: “The glass industry has amazing potential for growth and, by bringing academics, manufacturers and technology companies together, we can grasp that potential and bring real benefits to the UK economy.”
The considered Centres of Excellence are the mothballed line at the Pilkington Glass Watson Street Works in St Helens, Merseyside and the University of Leeds’ new research and innovation campus in West Yorkshire.
Dave Dalton, Chief Executive of British Glass and a Glass Future partner, said: “With glass furnaces running 24/7 these centres will give us the chance to carry out research that is impossible to do with continuous production facilities in the commercial world.
“And by doing that research we can ensure that the industry is fit for the future and actually leading the way in innovation and sustainability.”
The two facilities will bring together experts to carry out research into energy and emissions reduction, glass formulation and new high-tech products.
The St Helens site would focus on hot end production, with a large experimental furnace capable of producing 30 tonnes of product per day for windows, bottles or fibreglass. Research would concentrate on raw materials and alternative energy sources to reduce carbon and other emissions by more than 80%.
The Leeds site would focus on cold end production, with research into coatings, structure and the use of glass in medicine. The exact location of the Leeds site has yet to be determined, but is expected to be within the city.
The research hubs at St Helens and Leeds could create around 50 direct jobs each, with up to 1,000 indirect jobs.
Glass Futures partners and supporters are lobbying MPs and ministers at a UK’s House of Lords reception today.
If the scheme goes according to plan, work will start on the two sites later this year and be operational by spring 2019.