£54m Glass Futures site to be handed over next month

Glass Futures Global Centre of Excellence

The £54m Glass Futures Global Centre of Excellence is set to be handed over next month for internal fit-out works to begin.

Partners and stakeholders recently gathered at the St Helens site to mark the imminent completion of the project, managed and delivered by Network Space Developments (NSD).

Contractor Bowmer + Kirkland was appointed by NSD in December 2021 and started on site in January 2022. The main contract works will successfully complete this month and the 165,000 sq ft building handed over to Glass Futures, ready for the internal fit-out works to begin in April. The building is anticipated to be operational later this year.

Delivery of the project has been managed by landowner and developer NSD, on behalf of a partnership including not-for-profit Glass Futures, St Helens Borough Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and UKRI (UK Research & Innovation).

The facility was pre let to St Helens Borough Council on a 15-year head lease and sub-let to Glass Futures which will occupy the building to deliver industry and government-backed research and development projects focused on decarbonising the glass and foundation industries.

It will also provide a platform for its members to access an experimental scale furnace for testing and trials of new technology on a state-of-the-art line, both collaboratively and individually.

In 2022, NSD pre-sold the building to global investor Standard Life Investments Property Income Trust, part of abrdn, to secure forward funding and conclude a viable delivery strategy.

Throughout the construction phase, the scheme has made a significant contribution to the local economy with £11.2m of supply contracts going to businesses within a 20-mile radius of the site, including more than £1m awarded to St Helens businesses. Overall, 441 operatives and sub-contractors have been employed on the scheme, including 30 apprentices, with 36% of the labour coming from St Helens, Wigan and Warrington communities. Glass Futures has also appointed its first three apprentices.

Catherine Chilvers, development director at Network Space Developments, said: “The success of this project is testament to the incredible partnership we’ve helped establish and the hard work and commitment of everyone involved in driving this scheme forward.”

St Helens Borough Council leader, Cllr David Baines, said: “It’s incredible to think that this is a project which has only been a few years in the making, and the speed at which it’s happened is testament to a lot of hard work by a lot of people, from the initial idea and drive of people like Richard Katz, to Network Space and Bowmer and Kirkland and all those whose physical labour has built the amazing setting we see today. In St Helens and the city region we’ve put our money where our mouth is and backed this project to the hilt.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Building on St Helens’s proud legacy in the glassmaking industry, Glass Futures will help retain the borough’s position as a global centre of excellence. I’m proud that we’ve been able to help make it happen with £9m of city region funding.”

Richard Katz, Glass Futures chief executive, said: “Ten years ago the founding members of Glass Futures had the idea of building a Global Centre of Excellence to make glass the low-carbon material of choice. We each subscribed to a powerful idea which has since attracted major government innovation funding and industry support leading to the completion of the build phase of the project which will become our new home.

“But for us this handover is just the start. We’ll now begin an internal fit-out and will install the world’s first openly accessible furnace to test commercially viable technology, which should be operational by January 2024.”

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