Former Israeli president Shimon Peres has launched a new innovation centre in Jaffa to showcase how Israel reached the cutting-edge of science and technology in the hope that it will build bridges across the region.

The centre, which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists when it opens in 2018, will tell the story of Israel as the “start-up nation,” profiling inventive techniques in the fields such as of irrigation, energy, imaging and mobile technology.

The launch was attended by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It featured video simulations of the planned four-storey building, showing how visitors will experience a large, kinetic art exhibit of interactive screens at the entrance, followed by a series of Mini TEDtalks (Technology, Entertainment and Design), with Israeli entrepreneurs detailing their own journeys.

For Nobel laureate Peres however, it represents an opportunity to engage the youth of the Middle East and North Africa, using innovation to build peace

“I implore our neighbours: let us co-operate and create a start-up region,” he said. “Let us adopt the path of peace and innovation, which is always preferable to war and pain… Israel is a dream that came true. Permit me to continue to dream.”

Rivlin said the centre would “create a link between the past and the future” while Netanyahu acknowledged that “innovation and peace complement one another”.

Located at the Peres Peace House in Jaffa, the leaders hope the centre will become an educational hub, outlining Israeli developments in science, technology, medicine and healthcare, agriculture and industry, and “spark the imagination”.

Peres, 93, said: “All my life I have worked to ensure that Israel’s future is based on science and technology as well as on an unwavering moral commitment. They called me a dreamer. But today, when I look at Israel, we all can see clearly that the greater the dream, the more spectacular the results.”