Sustainable energy offers a growing future in drone training for Newcastle company

A Newcastle company has ramped up its training capacity to support employment in the sustainable energy market with a grant from the North of Tyne Growth Fund, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and supported by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA).


C&D Access provides rope access, engineering, inspection, maintenance, fabrication and training to the petrochemical, oil and gas, renewables and power generation industries – but the company has more recently embraced drone technology.



Director Spencer Clift, who founded the company in 2014, says the first few years were about establishing a strong reputation within the traditional oil and gas markets, but the company has now expanded its offering:


“We started out supporting construction, deconstruction and repair work requiring traditional access methods, but the difficult to reach structures mean we’ve been doing more rope access work. C&D Access carried out all the repair works to the roof deck and covering of Bamburgh Castle, all done using rope access. We also deconstructed a redundant conveyor structure with heavy corrosion, which meant a real danger that the structure could collapse at any point – again, ropes ensured we could carry out the work safely and efficiently.


“And as a proud Northern company, I’m delighted to say that we also restored the Port of Blyth East Pier lighthouse. Our view has always been, “You say it and we do it”.


C&D Access now aims to be a northern powerhouse for the region’s specialist engineering training requirements for those wanting to work as inspection technicians, engineers working in confined spaces and for jobs on wind turbines including at the nearby Dogger Bank, soon to be the world’s largest offshore wind farm.


Spencer explains: “Everyone who sets foot on a turbine needs to do GWO Basic Safety Training, which includes sea survival training for offshore wind farms. Our pool will also serve the demand in underwater drone and diver training and will be used to develop new products and services.”


Central to the company’s growth is the drone training facility to provide an indoor flight simulator for drones: “We offer a state of art inspection programme on wind turbines. It enables you to send a drone into the blade of a wind turbine to check for damage and makes it safe and very cost effective to keep the turbines in tip top condition.


“We’re also working on underwater drones to enable the quick inspection of underwater structures for cracks or other problems that could end up with a huge repair bill if not maintained regularly.”


The drone training is the second phase of the company’s training growth plan. In 2020 it opened the training centre in the Bellway Industrial Estate in Benton, offering Non-Destructive Testing training, Train the Painter (specialist training in surface treatments and the application of protective coatings) and all levels of IRATA Rope Access Training (working at height). The training company is also an ITC First approved centre, providing first aid training.


Spencer knew the company would be able to expand on its own but not at the speed that he wanted, so he turned to the North of Tyne Growth Fund.

“The whole process was very easy. Brent was a huge help in guiding us through the grant process and application, and we were awarded up to £150,000, which is 16% of the estimate total project cost, to go towards the £1 million investment,” he explains.


Spencer is passionate about employing ex-military staff, being ex-Army himself, and says one of the positive factors about his application was being able to clearly show the employment prospects from the expansion, with the number of employees due to double over the next 12 months. He encouraged business owners to get in touch with the Growth Fund:

“Just pick up the phone. They won’t give you false promises, and they will help you 100%.”


The North of Tyne Growth Fund is a £4.6m investment programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which supports SME growth across Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle local authorities. Expanding small and medium-sized businesses based in Newcastle, North Tyneside or Northumberland could be eligible for a grant of up to 30% of expenditure, if they are planning capital investment of at least £67,000.


The Fund fosters innovative processes to drive productivity, resulting in increased profitability, wage growth and employment growth in SMEs, strengthening the Northern economy, creating jobs and stimulating growth across the region.


The Fund is supported by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), a partnership of three local authorities: Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland and a directly-elected Metro Mayor.


The Fund is managed by UMi, which celebrates and inspires entrepreneurship. UMi has just launched a new tool which helps companies to make better business decisions more quickly.


Since 2007, UMi has guided more than 450,000 businesses across the UK to do more and go further. It does this by finding and packaging the best information, expertise and finance so businesses can get more of what they want - whether that’s more funding, customers, talent or more free time.

For more information about the Growth Fund call 0191 716 1007 or email northoftynegrowthfund@weareumi.co.uk