The UK’s video games industry could have a new Silicon Valley-style hub in Stoke-on-Trent if the city is given the chance, a Conservative former minister has said.

Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, has urged ministers to back proposals for “Silicon Stoke”, which he said would build on existing expertise in the area and its citywide full fibre broadband connection.

He suggested he was willing to “kick down the bloody door” of anyone necessary to make the plan a reality.

The Tory MP shared his ambitions of encouraging one of the industry’s biggest players to set up a UK headquarters in the city, in a project he hopes can be his political legacy if he is ejected from Parliament at the next election.

UK Parliament portraits
Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Gullis told the PA news agency he was ready to “knock on any door” in order to secure a large company that could kickstart the industry within the city.

He added: “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 2021 prospectus for Silicon Stoke outlined how the rollout of full fibre broadband in the city, coupled with existing video games expertise at Staffordshire University, could be a springboard for a new industrial cluster in the region.

A new entertainment arena proposed as part of ongoing regeneration efforts in Stoke has meanwhile been singled out for its potential use in competitive games tournaments, known as e-sports.

Mr Gullis has a personal interest in video games, with fond memories of playing them growing up, and he also bought a PlayStation 5 to entertain himself during the pandemic.

But he was unaware of the extent and popularity of e-sports tournaments, telling PA: “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 MP said the proposals had been inspired by a similar scheme in Leamington Spa, which has seen the growth of a video games cluster after Sega, the Japanese creator of the Sonic The Hedgehog game series, based its Hardlight mobile game development studio in the town.

Bournemouth and Dundee are among the other UK places where video game clusters have grown around universities and businesses.

Silicon Stoke’s backers have called for more financial aid from the Government to see through the project, while Mr Gullis suggested devolution of tax powers to local leaders could help them incentivise the industry.

Mr Gullis has said he feels confident the city’s new Labour administration, elected in May, is willing to see through the project begun when his party was in power locally.

In the face of changing political headwinds, he also hopes the project could be a legacy for him if he is not elected again.

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 view over one of Stoke on Trent's bottle ovens from the Silicon Stoke prospectus.. The kilns were at the heart of the city's industrial heritage as the potteries. Picture: Stoke on Trent City Council.
A view over one of Stoke-on-Trent’s bottle ovens from the Silicon Stoke prospectus – the kilns were at the heart of the city’s industrial heritage as the potteries (Stoke on Trent City Council/PA)

He confirmed he would be standing in the next general election, but added: “I think anyone can see that at present it is a tough political time for anyone who is a Conservative at this moment.”

Mr Gullis went on: “If I was to lose, I would love to sit down with any successor of mine of any political persuasion, to show them the idea and hopefully leave them a platform, or leave them with something to pick up and carry on with.

“And I hope they embrace it, because I think it’d be foolish not to.”

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.”