Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan launched the Israeli Innovation Center, an interactive showcase of Israel’s history of technological breakthroughs, on Thursday.Launched at an extravagant ceremony at Expo Tel Aviv, attended by Chinese Internet giant Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Google founder Eric Schmidt and a talking hologram of Shimon Peres, the four-floor innovation center at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation will exhibit Israeli ingenuity and its contribution to the world.One of former president Shimon Peres’s flagship projects before his death, he laid the cornerstone for the innovation center in July 2016 together with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. The grand opening formed part of the two-day Prime Minister’s Israeli Innovation Summit, one of the primary events celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary and initiated by the Culture and Sport Ministry in cooperation with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.“My vision for the Israeli Innovation Center, established here within the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, is to serve as a window to the future. A place for dreams. A place that expresses the desire to leave the next generation with a better and brighter future,” Peres’s hologram told the 1,500-strong crowd based on excerpts from the former president’s spiritual will.
“The Israeli Innovation Center will tell the extraordinary and inspiring story of the State of Israel as the ‘innovation nation.’ A home of optimism and hope. A place for cooperation and coexistence between all sectors of Israeli society, and a link between Israel and the world. The purpose of this place is to spread ideas near and far – to bring peace and prosperity closer, to make a positive change both in spirit and in reality – for us and for our neighbors, and for humanity as a whole,” Peres said.The center will highlight 100 events that have transformed Israeli into a world-renowned nation of innovation, as well as interactive holograms of the country’s most important inventors and a simulated time capsule using virtual reality technology to show Israel’s future technological breakthroughs.“I remember the conversations I had with Shimon,” said Netanyahu. “When he spoke of innovation and peace, his eyes sparkled. He had a tremendous confidence in the youth of Israel, the genius of Israel. Here’s where we saw completely eye-to-eye. I believe that when I had these conversations with Shimon, his mind soared to new ideas, new technologies and new applications... I wish I could communicate to him and to tell him that this dream of his is coming true. And the fact is that we’re all here today, telling him that it’s happening and more will happen.” Wang emphasized China’s readiness to work with all countries to build an inclusive global economic landscape and a shared future for all mankind.“Over seven decades, Israel has transformed from a country of immigrants with a weak foundation to one of the few developed countries in the Middle East thanks to innovation,” Wang said. “Israel is now a world-renowned country of innovation. There is a lot in common between our two countries and a lot to achieve through cooperation.”Founded in 1996 by Peres, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation is now chaired by the former president’s son Chemi Peres.“My father was very proud of Israel and its becoming the innovation nation. He always said that innovation should always be used to make a better world, and we must continue harnessing its power in the pursuit of peace and shared future. This is why several years ago, the Peres Center for Peace added the word innovation to its name,” Chemi Peres said. “The innovation center will promote Israeli innovation locally, regionally and globally while encouraging every child of all cultures or religions and backgrounds to believe in themselves, to take the initiative to explore, shape their future and to lead.”On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu and Wang opened the innovation summit, awarding the Prime Minister’s Prize for Israeli Innovation to three start-ups.Genomics interpretation platform Emedgene, developer of targeted flavor delivery technology DouxMatok and virtual cryptography company Unbound Tech will each benefit from a prize worth NIS 70,000 ($19,000).Echoing comments made by Peres that creativity and innovation are borne out of necessity, Innovation Authority CEO Aharon Aharon praised the opening of the innovation center. “For Israel, a country that is geographically small, remote from major global markets and with almost no natural resources, innovation has become the most valuable national asset, crucial to its economic prosperity,” Aharon said. “The Innovation Authority has partnered with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in showcasing Israeli innovation that helped change the world. These advanced technological solutions amplify the significance of our continued support of Israeli innovations as an engine to advance the entire Israeli economy and ability to affect the global market.”