St Helens Borough Council Planning Committee has granted planning permission for the £54million Glass Futures global glass research and innovation facility.

The planning application was prepared and submitted by developer and landowner Network Space, on behalf of Glass Futures, to build the 160,000 sq ft Global Centre of Excellence.

The facility will be used to deliver industry and government backed R&D projects focused on decarbonising glass production and will also provide a platform for industry to test and trial their own commercial ideas on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.

Construction company, Bowmer + Kirkland, has been appointed to build the Global Centre of Excellence following an open procurement process through the North West Construction Hub.

Work is expected to begin on site in July this year and will complete by December 2022.

The project delivery is led by Network Space on behalf of an innovative partnership created between Glass Futures, the global glass supply chain, Network Space, St Helens MBC, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI (UK Research and Innovation).

The project will be funded through a mix of public and private investment.

Glass Futures secured a £15m UKRI grant to support the installation of a globally unique, experimental furnace and state of the art infrastructure capable of melting 30 tonnes of glass per day in a safe experimental space.

Network Space will secure private sector investment and has been awarded a £9m grant from the Liverpool City Region’s ‘Build Back Better’ fund to support the construction costs.

Glass sector companies will also contribute a further £20m in resource, time and equipment to support the project.

St Helens Council will take a head lease of the building to facilitate the development and deliver a green recovery.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Glass Futures has the potential to put our region at the forefront of the Green Industrial Revolution and make us a global leader in new technology.

“When complete, this project will help take St Helens proud history in glass making and bring it into the 21st century, creating lots of local jobs and drastically cutting carbon emissions.”

In addition to creating 80 new permanent jobs, the project will lead to apprenticeships, training and general up-skilling within the glass and similar industrial sectors.

It could also attract further inward investment to the region as leading international glass companies focus resources to be within geographical reach of the facility.

Glass Futures’ Chief Executive, Richard Katz, added: “This decision is fantastic news. It enables the delivery of a test-bed facility to develop processes to make glass the most sustainable and recyclable material solution available.

“The research, innovations and energy efficiencies we deliver here can be shared and harnessed by all glass applications including packaging, glazing and glass fibre, as well as across other foundation industries.

“The Global Centre of Excellence will enable us to work collaboratively with our members, the supply chain and academia to achieve zero carbon glass.”