“Silicon Stoke”, a proposal presented by Jonathan Gullis MP, designed to increase connectivity and digital business within Stoke-On-Trent is receiving newfound attention as the ex-cabinet minister and current elected MP for the city seeks to make it his legacy policy for the seat.
First proposed by Gullis, a controversial figure in the UK Conservative Party, in 2021 the Silicone Stoke scheme is an ambitious proposal to increase fibre broadband access in the region. It would also include a number of other digital development programs that would also boost the development of digital entertainment in the area.
The MP has now gone on a new media offensive, calling for his plans to be approved before he is expected to be unseated. Gullis, in the prospectus for the scheme said, “Silicon Stoke is no far-fetched dream. It is a growing reality. The foundations are already in place. The full-fibre gigabit network is complete. This prospectus sets out how the city is already starting to build on the network and lays out the opportunities that we must now exploit at pace, including the help we need to achieve our ambitions.”
Will Silicon Stoke survive?
While the proposal itself is sound enough, with broader, cross-party interest in building up the UK’s digital economy and a knock-on benefit for mobile game development in the country, having Gullis as its figurehead is perhaps not a good look. His spotty parliamentary record is testament to that as he seemingly looks to once more boost this legacy scheme.
TIGA CEO Richard Wilson, commented at the plan’s reveal, “We recognise the special potential for Stoke-on-Trent as a UK centre for games and wider digital creative production. In Staffordshire University, the city already has an outstanding university for digital and creative production. When combined with a world class infrastructure, the city should become an increasingly attractive place to develop digital entertainment.”
Gullis meanwhile spoke on his hopes the proposal would be adopted, “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," renewing his push for his possible Labour successors to continue backing the proposal.
Given that Stoke-on-Trent was one of a number of infamous “Red Wall” (Labour safe seats once considered untouchable) seats taken by Conservative MPs, when and if Labour reclaim it, endorsing the Silicone Stoke project would be an easy economic and public relations win for them.
With an increasing push to move economic activity outside the heartland of London, the push to expand digital growth outside of the capital offers many opportunities across Britain. These would include advantages from lower costs related to office space and accommodation for employees living nearby, while bringing new money and talent into new growth areas.