Former Israeli president Shimon Peres, together with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, laid the cornerstone today for the Israeli Innovation Center, which aims to be a visitors center as well a source of technological innovation.
The new center, planned to open in 2018, will be located at the Peres Peace House on the Jaffa coast in the south of Tel Aviv. It aims to draw guests from around the world to learn about Israel’s achievements in the high tech sphere.
At the event attended by leading figures of the high tech industry, including Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. founder Gil Shwed and Yossi Vardi, Peres unveiled his aspiration to use the center to close the gaps between the Arab and Jewish populations, and between rich and poor, and lead to regional innovation collaboration.
“We will prove that innovation has no limits and no barriers. Innovation enables dialogue between nations and between people. It will enable all young people – Jews, Muslims and Christians — to engage in science and technology equally. Here we will emphasize that we can promote peace from childhood, and we will spark the imagination of every boy and girl and enrich their dreams,” Peres said, his 93-year old voice at times feeble, other times resounding. “We must open our doors to all the populations, ultra-Orthodox and Arabs, so they too can enjoy the fruits of this innovation.”
But together with technology children must also be instilled with values, “because without values, technology threatens the world,” he said. “Technology must be used for both social and economic growth”.
Peres, who was the orchestrator behind Israel’s air force and nuclear reactor, and an architect of Israel’s peace accords with Jordan and Egypt, called on Israel’s neighboring countries to join forces and to create a “startup region.”
“Peace, innovation and science must be the realm of all. Not only Israel should benefit from the fruit of innovation, but the whole region,” he said. “Let us adopt the road to peace and innovation, which will always be better than war and terror,” Peres said.
The center will showcase the story of Israel as the Start-up Nation; it will contain a kinetic exhibition of thousands of interactive screens planned to display the best of Israel’s technology; host a digital library where visitors can ask questions and get answers about the history of Israel’s innovation; and host an entrepreneurial hub to enable meetings, hackathons and courses in a multitude of languages for students, entrepreneurs and innovators.
“Israel has become a hub for technology and high tech,” Rivlin said. And even as a lack of skilled workers threatens this high tech landscape, there is a solution at hand. The country should tap into its ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations, which are under-represented today in the high tech sector, to close this gap, Rivlin said.
The Israeli Innovation Center is yet another milestone along Peres’ lifelong journey, said Netanyahu. “With the goal of opening similar innovation centers in countries across the Middle East and North Africa region, Peres is dreaming big, but as he often says, ‘Our only mistake was not dreaming big enough.'”
The new center in Jaffa will be set up with the help of donors from Jewish communities abroad and the heads of international companies, the center said.