Businessman Rod Taylor, the founder and former owner of Seaward Electronic in Peterlee, has died after a three-year battle with cancer.

He was 66.

Mr Taylor launched the company, which is now regarded as a market leader in the manufacture of electronic test and measurement instruments, in 1982.

It now employs 170 people from its offices on the South West Industrial Estate, and was acquired by German company Metrawatt in 2015.

Mr Taylor was born in Kenya to Scottish parents and settled in the North East in the 1960s.

An engineer by trade, he spent the early stages of his career working for companies including Aquatronics and Sperry Rand, before he branched out on his own, making test equipment.

Mr Taylor then launched Seaward Electronic with the help of his father, and quickly established the business, supplying to over 60 countries which led to it winning a Queens Award for Export in 2013.

Paying tribute to Mr Taylor, Seaward’s current managing director Andrew Upton, who took over the role when Mr Taylor became chairman, said: “Rod was well-loved and is fondly remembered by the Seaward staff who worked with him, as well as by those in our distribution network and supply chain.

“It is due to his entrepreneurship, forward thinking, hard work and diligence that Seaward is where it is today – leading the field internationally in biomedical engineering, renewable energy and health and safety testing equipment.”

Mr Taylor, who is survived by his wife Rosemary, son Russell and daughters Frances and Jennifer, was awarded an MBE for services to industry in 2009.

Speaking on behalf of the Peterlee Business Park Group, Leanne English said: “Rod Taylor was an inspirational businessman, proof of what can be achieved with hard work and determination.

“Seaward is one of the area’s most successful businesses and that is certainly down to the leadership of Rod until the company was acquired in 2015.

“He will be sadly missed by our business community and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”