UK video games industry should have hub in Stoke-on-Trent, says MP

Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has made proposals for “Silicon Stoke”

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Stoke-on-Trent could be set to become a new Silicon Valley-style hub for the UK video games industry, if given the chance, an MP has said. Conservative former minister Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North is calling on ministers to back proposals for “Silicon Stoke”.

Mr Gullis said it would build on the existing expertise in the area and the citywide full fibre broadband connection. The Tory MP has shared his ambitions of encouraging one of the industry’s biggest players to set up a UK headquarters in the city.

He said he hopes the project can be his political legacy if he is ejected from Parliament at the next election. Mr Gullis told the PA news agency that he was ready to “knock on any door” in order to secure a large company to kickstart the industry within the city.

The MP said: “I’m very much ready to not knock on it, but kick down the bloody door if necessary to get this thing because I want my city to have opportunities.”

A prospectus made in 2021 for Silicon Stoke outlined how the rollout of full fibre broadband across the city, coupled with the existing video games expertise at Staffordshire University, could be used to springboard the city to be the new industrial cluster in the region.

A new entertainment area has been proposed for Stoke as part of the ongoing regeneration efforts, which have been singled out for its potential use for competitive games tournaments. Mr Gullis has shared his personal interest in video games, sharing fond memories of playing them growing up, and how he bought a PS5 to play during the pandemic.

The MP had shared how he was unaware about the extent and popularity of e-sports tournaments, saying: “When I am seeing 60,000-seater stadiums in Japan being sold out to watch e-sports… it suddenly became clear to me and actually was solidified by the pandemic that what was the one area of growth in terms of real business growth was video games throughout the lockdown.”

The Stoke-on-Trent proposals have been inspired by a similar scheme in Leamington Spa, which saw the growth of a video game industry. It follows Sega, the Japanese creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, basing their Hardlight mobile game development studio in the town.

Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has made proposals for “Silicon Stoke” Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has made proposals for “Silicon Stoke”
Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has made proposals for “Silicon Stoke”

Bournemouth and Dundee are other key areas in the UK where video game clusters have grown, after the growth of universities and businesses.

Backers for Silicon Stoke have called for more financial aid from the Government to grow the project, with Mr Gullis suggesting a devolution of tax powers to the local leaders could help them incentivise the industry.

He also has said he feels confident that the city’s new Labour administration, which was elected in May, would be willing to see the project through. Mr Gullis said: “I would like it to be something I can leave behind as a legacy, even if it’s just at the foundation stages for others to build upon and grow.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “As in the Levelling Up White Paper, devolution deals should be agreed for counties or across a functional economic area led by a single institution.

“As part of our mission to level up every part of the United Kingdom by spreading opportunity and empowering local leaders, we have granted Stoke-on-Trent £56 million from the Levelling Up Fund.”