Shimon Peres: Israeli High-tech’s Splendid International Ambassador

Leading entrepreneurs, academics describe Shimon Peres as prophet of Israel as a technological superpower.

Shimon Peres at Peres Center for Peace, June 27, 2016.
Moti Milrod

The news of Shimon Peres’ passing was the talk of the day at the DLD Innovation Conference, which came to a close Thursday in Tel Aviv. The original plan was for Dr. Yossi Vardi, the conference chair, to hold a public discussion with his close friend Peres on technology, high-tech and Israel’s place as a leading innovator in the world. But when Peres suffered a stroke two weeks ago, the event, at which the prize for Outstanding Startup was also to be announced, was canceled.

In recent years, Peres was a splendid ambassador for Israeli high-tech. He took part in many international conferences and economic forums at which he energetically promoted the Israeli high-tech industry. Peres met with the founders of tech giants like Google, Amazon, HP and many more, and encouraged their top executives to invest in Israel and assist in technological developments and collaborative projects. Just a few months ago, the Peres Center for Peace, located in Jaffa, opened the new Israeli Innovation Center with interactive exhibitions about the inventions that have made Israel the “Startup Nation.”

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At the center’s inauguration in July, Peres talked about how, since the state’s founding, Israel has managed – against all odds and with scant resources – to invent and manufacture from scratch leading technologies in the fields of medicine, agriculture and industry, by drawing on its human capital as the most important basis for all of this. “Science, innovation and peace are our goal, and they must be there for all, not just Israel – all the nations of the region should benefit. I believe that everyone has the potential to become a scientist, and Israel must strive toward this,” Peres said.

Maxine Fassberg, CEO of Intel Israel, said Thursday, “What’s left after his passing is his vision. Peres was a remarkable man of vision – in the field of technology as well. More than a decade ago, he identified the importance of the nanotech field, described it as Israel’s future and put unprecedented energy and effort into it. Every year, at the Presidential Conference that he founded, he displayed the best of Israeli tech innovations. Peres was the prophet of the high-tech superpower and someone who could really read the tech map – sometimes better than people in that field. It was a huge honor for us to host him at our plant in Kiryat Gat and to show him how we are making his vision come true.”

The Israel Advanced Technology Industries, the umbrella organization of high-tech and life sciences industries in Israel, also noted Peres’ contribution: “We will always remember him as someone who for many decades promoted high-tech and life sciences in Israel, who nurtured close ties with the industry and found many ways to promote the importance of the innovative and entrepreneurial thinking at its core,” the organization said in a statement.

Professor Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, said Thursday that in a letter he wrote to him in 2013, Peres said, “The researchers and scientists of the Technion, including many talented young people, are helping to situate Israel as a bold and original global laboratory at the forefront of scientific development in the world. Your path-breaking innovation knows no bounds. You are the guarantee for Israel maintaining its qualitative advantage in the future.”

Lavie says that Peres was a very unique person, a man of optimism and vision, who believed in the power of science and engineering to move humanity toward a better future. He was a strong supporter of nanotechnology research and even laid the cornerstone for the Technion’s Nanoelectronics Center. At the time, this was a brand new and pioneering field, and it is now a key area of activity at the institution.