‘Glass Futures’ aims to ‘completely revolutionise the manufacture of glass’, develop new products and help the industry cut its carbon footprint by 80 per cent. It is also set to have an apprentice training centre.
The not-for-profit company is likely to set up on two sites, one in South Yorkshire and one near the border.
At the heart of the operation will be a furnace making up to 30 tonnes a day of special glass for uses such as medical implants, smartphones and hi-tech construction. It needs a giant building up to a quarter of a mile long, Magna in Rotherham was considered but rejected because it ‘wasn’t big enough’.
The hope is it will be undergoing testing by the end of this year.
Glass Futures is the brainchild of industry body British Glass, based in Chapeltown, Sheffield.
Richard Katz, founding director, said: “We will bring together the best in global manufacture with the shining lights of academia to focus on exploiting this amazing opportunity in two centres of excellence in the Northern Powerhouse.
“Glass Futures wants to attract, train and up-skill the best brains to develop this concept. The UK has a great opportunity to spearhead this, we want to be at the core of economic growth.”
The scheme has the backing of Austrian glass firm Swarovski, UK manufacturers Pilkington and Guardian Industries in Goole, engineering firm Siemens, Sheffield Hallam and Leeds universities and the world’s biggest bottle manufacturer Owens Illinois.
Industry is set to put in up to £20m, with discussions over a similar amount from Government ‘looking promising’.
Mr Katz added: “The glass industry has furnaces that run 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week for up to 20 years. They cost millions to build and enormous sums to interrupt, and almost all run on gas. It all stops experimentation. We are offering it the chance to reinvent itself.”