Conventionally, embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are cultured on gelatin or over a mitotically inactivated monolayer of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFsi). Considering the lack of versatile, non-animal-derived and inexpensive materials for that purpose, we aimed to find a biomaterial able to support ESC growth in a pluripotent state that avoids the need for laborious and time-consuming MEFsi culture in parallel with mouse ESC (mESC) culture. Undifferentiated mESCs were cultured in a new nanofibre material designed for ESC culture, which is based on the self-assembly of a triblock co-polymer, poly(ethyleneglycol-β-trimethylsilyl methacrylate-β-methacrylic acid), conjugated with the peptide glycine–arginine–glycine–aspartate–serine, to evaluate its potential application in ESC research. The morphology, proliferation, viability, pluripotency and differentiation potential of mESCs were assessed. Compared to conventional stem cell culture methodologies, the nanofibres promoted a higher increase in mESCs number, enhanced pluripotency and were able to support differentiation after long-term culture. This newly developed synthetic system allows the elimination of animal-derived matrices and provides an economic method of ESC culture, made of a complex network of nanofibres in a scale similar to native extracellular matrices, where the functional properties of the cells can be observed and manipulated. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.