A North of Tyne engineering firm could revolutionise the offshore wind industry thanks to a project designed to fund scientific research and create jobs.
Transmission Dynamics, based in Cramlington, is developing ultrasonic safety testing equipment that could be fitted to thousands of offshore wind turbines. The award-winning Internet of Things specialists said the sale and manufacture of the equipment and associated data analysis would help generate £8 million a year by 2030 and create 50 jobs.
Transmission Dynamics Business Development Director Jenny Hudson said investment from the Technology, Innovation and Green Growth for Offshore Renewables (TIGGOR) programme backed by the North of Tyne Combined Authority made the project possible. “We would not have been able to commit to this ambitious industrial research project without the TIGGOR funding,” she said. It will support us to develop innovative, low-cost sensors to deploy ultrasonic guided waves across wind turbine towers and foundations identifying cracks, corrosion and loss of bolt tension for wind turbine structural integrity testing. This innovative, disruptive technology has clear technological and commercial benefits.”
Transmission Dynamics, which is building a £4.8m base at Northumberland Business Park, began as an engineering consultancy and has grown to become a leading Internet of Things specialist. The Cramlington firm took the innovation award at last year’s Northumberland and Tyneside Business Awards and has just been shortlisted to a prestigious British engineering Excellence Awards in 2022.
They have clients including Siemens-Gamesa, ZF Wind Power, Vestas, Park Wind and EWT and many other wind turbine gearbox manufacturers operating globally. It was one of five companies operating in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland – Transmission Dynamics, Kinewell Energy, SMD, Trident Dynamics and Unasys – to receive a share of £1.7m in match funding made available through the first round of the TIGGOR programme’s technology demonstration strand.
Working with specialists in the Operations and Maintenance industry, the company will retrofit existing technology to create its new ultrasonic testing apparatus. A scaled-down jacket structure – the foundation of a wind turbine – designed and commissioned in house was delivered to their Northumberland HQ in December. This will allow Transmission Dynamics engineers to test their new technology more quickly and demonstrate its worth.
Jenny Hudson said: “End-users are reluctant to be the first adopters of new technologies, causing a barrier to entry. Developing a user-informed solution and demonstrating, testing and validating it is a way to address this. We have benefitted from engagement with specialists from both Siemens-Gamesa and SSE Renewables to understand their requirements for structural monitoring of these critical assets. This enabled us to ensure we design a user-led solution that will be fit for purpose both technically and commercially.”
She said the TIGGOR support increased the likelihood of their gaining first-to-market-advantage. “Now TIGGOR has invested in this work, we expect significant turnover increase,” she said. We aim to patent the Intellectual Property generated, offering opportunities to license the technology developed. This will collectively contribute towards our commercial target to generate £4m revenue on hardware annually and £4m on data provision and diagnostics annually, from the global wind market by 2030. Ultimately this will all feed into our business plan which includes creation of 50 new jobs over the next five years to service the company’s growth in this and other sectors.”
Transmission Dynamics will contribute £279,688 to the £699,221 project, with a TIGGOR grant of £419,533 (60%). The TIGGOR programme is being delivered on behalf of the North of Tyne Combined Authority by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult), which has a base in Blyth.
Jenny Hudson said: “Ultimately, this aims to benefit these wind turbine manufacturers, owners, operators and service providers by offering both a retrofit solution and the ability to change the status quo of future wind turbine design. This collaborative approach and two-way open data sharing via TIGGOR’s TDP programme will enable continuous user informed solutions and co-creation that will support the industries’ growth for many years to come.”
Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “It’s great to see this innovation that we helped make happen. Small businesses are the life blood of our local economy. At the North of Tyne, we’re investing to help businesses grow and to innovate for the future. It’s all about creating good jobs for people and supporting small businesses to thrive. I look forward to seeing the inventive products that come next.”
Graham Smith, R&D programmes manager at ORE Catapult, said: “Supply chain innovation and development is key to the UK maximising impact from the world-leading growth in offshore wind, and this programme provides a platform for companies to both demonstrate their technology and to receive tailored business support. These innovative North East businesses will be well positioned to take full advantage of the huge multi-billion offshore wind supply chain opportunity, further increasing local UK content, jobs and manufacturing.”
Companies that would like to participate in the programme are being asked to register their interest: ore.catapult.org.uk/TIGGOR.