Working in partnership with St Helens Council, national Government (UKRI/BEIS), the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, as well as international backers, Network Space has secured Glass Futures to St Helens, delivering a global glass research and innovation centre, funded through an innovative public private sector partnership.
Network Space conceived an innovative multi-partnered public private funding structure with St Helens Council entering a traditional head-lease arrangement (sublet to Glass Futures), with the head lease being sold to an institutional investor to generate funds to support delivery of the property. Grant funding was also secured direct from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Network Space submitted a planning application and secured consent in June 21. The scheme was then marketed by property agent B8 Real Estate, on behalf of Network Space, as a forward funding investment opportunity.
In December 2021, following a competitive process, the building was successfully sold to global investor Standard Life Investment Property Income Trust (Abrdn) by way of a Sale and Development Agreement and concluded a viable delivery strategy. The Fund was particularly attracted to the sustainability credentials of the project and its ambition to position St Helens at the forefront of future glass research and production.
On behalf of the partnership, Network Space managed the £21million building contract and appointed Bowmer and Kirkland to deliver the principal construction works. The scheme started on site in January 2022, only two years after the delivery concept was first conceived, and completed in early 2023.
The scheme has delivered the only openly, accessible test and trial furnace operation in the world, directly supporting the economic growth of the Liverpool City Region (LCR) and Mayoral ambition for a competitive, clean and inclusive economy.
The project places St Helens and LCR at the forefront of global glass innovation and the transition to zero carbon glass production. It provides the world’s first platform for the glass industry, working collaboratively and individually, to access an experimental scale furnace and state-of-the-art line to test and run trials for implementation at commercial scale, and generate new R&D projects in the LCR. Members, researchers and industry leaders will collaborate and experiment with different energy sources and raw materials, even down to speciality grains of sand, to eventually come up with solutions leading to lower high energy usage in the glass-making process.
80 jobs will be created and, in addition to creating new jobs at the facility, the Centre of Excellence will lead to much-needed apprenticeships as well as being a safe facility for up-skilling and training within the glass sector. It will also help to attract inward investment to the North West as leading glass players recognise and move manpower and resources to be within geographical reach of the facility. Amion Consulting has independently estimated the total net operational GVA benefit of the project within the LCR at £119.2 million.