A new prospectus setting out the ambitions for the digital transformation of Stoke-on-Trent has been launched to help secure partnerships and investment into the city.
The prospectus – called Silicon Stoke – was outlined today (Monday) by city council leaders to government ministers, business leaders, voluntary sector organisations and health partners.
Silicon Stoke casts the city as a ‘smart city’ for the UK and outlines a number of opportunities to attract government funding and new national and international businesses to base themselves in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s also a key part of the city’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The prospectus outlines the areas where the city is already leading the way. This includes the completion of a 113km full-fibre network that has been laid right across Stoke-on-Trent with the opportunity for 5G connectivity citywide, supported through £8.53m of government funding, a gaming hub, a full-fibre academy at Stoke-on-Trent College, as well as a new Digital Academy.
The launch was led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown and deputy leader Daniel Jellyman, and the prospectus is backed by the city’s three MPs – Jack Brereton for Stoke-on-Trent South; Jo Gideon for Stoke-on-Trent Central; and Jonathan Gullis for Stoke-on-Trent North, who has championed the agenda in parliament.
Minister for Digital Infrastructure and Broadband, Matt Warman, attended the virtual launch event, which outlined some of the key infrastructure that underpins the prospectus and digital transformation within the city. He said: "Building first-class digital infrastructure is crucial for levelling up the country and I'm thrilled our £8.5 million investment for a vast fibre broadband network underneath this great city will act as the springboard for 'Silicon Stoke'.
"The funding, alongside the bold vision of the city's council leaders, will transform the city into a hotbed of digital innovation - creating jobs, boosting businesses and improving lives.”
Council leader Abi Brown said: “We are living in extraordinary times. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated to us all the value of being connected. We want this connectivity available to all, and we are delivering this through pioneering innovation. It’s not just about faster download speeds for streaming and gaming, although this will be a clear benefit from the technology. It’s about having the infrastructure to be able to improve health and social care through remote diagnosis, treatment and care; it’s about giving children in the city a first-class digital education through improved digital teaching. It’s also about having the infrastructure in place so that construction companies can build digital connectivity into the design and build of new homes. It’s also about supporting digital businesses to grow and helping our manufacturers to benefit from new technologies.
“This connectivity is a must-have, not a nice-to-have, for ensuring the wellbeing of our residents, businesses and society as a whole. We recognise next-generation communications as one of the key drivers of our city’s digital transformation as we pass through and then emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have the infrastructure in place to be at the heart of this revolution. And with our brilliant workforce and know-how from Staffordshire and Keele universities, we also have the skills.
“This prospectus is an invitation to work with us and even play with us. It sets out an array of opportunities to use the infrastructure we have put in place to achieve amazing things for our city and our people and in doing so, act as an exemplar for those who want to follow.”
Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North said: “Digital services are a growing market around the world. Exports of telecommunications, computer and information services have more than doubled in the last decade. Two-thirds of our service exports were delivered digitally.
“This is about looking to attract video game design, TV production, artificial intelligence and robotics firms to set up in the architecturally pleasing old buildings we have in towns like Burslem. I’m excited that we’re taking the next step in making this a reality and building on the strength of businesses across the city for the benefit of the wider UK.”
During the meeting, Minister Matt Warman heard how the full-fibre network will benefit residents and communities. Stoke-on-Trent College will become a full-fibre academy, providing training for young people and older adults wishing to re-train in installation skills, including hands-on field experience. It will also seek to maximise the use of apprenticeships and opportunities for local contractors.
Stoke-on-Trent College principal Denise Brown said: “We are only in the foothills of how the digital revolution will change learning and teaching over the next decade. At Stoke-on-Trent College we want to be at the forefront of that change. It is therefore brilliant to see the city pursuing such a strong strategy for enabling digital education and we look forward to playing our full part in the future.”
Cllr Daniel Jellyman, deputy leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “This is about leading a digital revolution in Stoke-on-Trent and providing the plans and opportunities to forge progress in driving our economy forward. It is about creating the high skilled, well-paid jobs our city needs. The prospectus sets out how we can transform life in this city for residents, whether that’s by growing the economy more quickly, improving the health and wellbeing of residents including in areas such as social care, or in areas such as access to employment, digital access or inclusion.”
For more information, go to www.stoke.gov.uk/poweringup