Unser Reinhard Mohn Preisträger Nechemia J. Peres während des Festakts

“The future must be driven by the power of thinking”

Chemi Peres is an entrepreneur, a champion of start-ups, and the son of a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He’s a sensation, and not just in his native state of Israel. But more than anything else, he’s a forward thinker with a clear vision, urging us to “innovate in order to create a tomorrow that everyone can participate in.”


Foto Daniel Schraad-Tischler
Dr. Daniel Schraad-Tischler
Foto Jan C. Breitinger
Dr. Jan C. Breitinger
Senior Project Manager


Author: Stefan Schelp, Bertelsmann Stiftung​

Peres believes that it’s not just technology or capital that matters. “The future must be driven by the power of thinking,” adding that when one country grows through brain power, it’s not at the expense of another country. That’s when conflicts end, because “You can’t conquer innovation with armies.”

The Bertelsmann Stiftung actually awarded Chemi – or Nechemia – Peres the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2020 last year, but the ceremony was postponed due to the coronavirus. Finally, the charismatic entrepreneur was able to receive the award in person.

Receiving the award means a lot to him, as was plain to see by the audience tuning in digitally to the ceremony held in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s new Work Café. As Liz Mohn presented the award to the head of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, he thanked the honorary member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Board of Trustees with a warm embrace. “Today, we honor a special person,” began Liz Mohn, “a person whose commitment stands as a role model for us all.” She went on to remind us of the fact that innovation is the basis for a peaceful future. “We decide today how we will shape tomorrow. We all live in one world. But this is the only world we’ve got.” This world needs a renewed sense of optimism, and people across the globe need to work more closely together, urged Liz Mohn.

While he may not (yet) have set his sights on the entire world, Chemi Peres has taken on the Middle East in advocating for the innovation and brain power that can help societies overcome old conflicts. Doing so means people would no longer have to fight for land and resources. “This is how we can succeed in creating a new Middle East.” Innovation, he asserted, fuels peace. “And in peace, you can then create even more innovations.” Peres’s desire to be part of these innovations for a long time to come is clear. “If you have more dreams than achievements, then you are still young. And I still have many dreams.” While he will continue to push innovative ideas, focusing on young people in particular is also very important to him. “The whole world should focus on young people and inspire them to do things. Everyone must have the opportunity to dream and then to fulfill those dreams.” 

“We need to get the next generation on board,” urged Brigitte Mohn, a member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, “they carry the ability to make the world a better place.” Pointing to the importance of education, she reminded us that it has always served as the building block for innovative power. Role models like Chemi Peres, the Reinhard Mohn Prize recipient, play an important role here. “Germany has a lot of catching up to do in this respect.” Germany needs to re-establish itself as a driver of innovation. “Israel has understood that innovation needs to be allocated at the highest political level. There must be a concerted effort to promote innovation.” After all, Brigitte Mohn noted, innovation can help change society for the better. In this context, it is important that people have a shared understanding of the core values that serve to orient them.

In her keynote speech, Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang highlighted the fact that her country is already ahead of the game in this respect. Digital technologies help bring people together, even during a pandemic, she noted. But in order to achieve this goal, she said, you have to bring the technology to the people, not the people to the technology. “When we see the ‘Internet of Things’, let’s make it an ‘Internet of Beings’. When we see ‘virtual reality’, let’s make it a ‘shared reality’.” Demonstrating how straightforward this can be with her tongue-in-cheek manner, Tang ended her speech by quoting Mr. Spock from Star Trek: “Live long and prosper.”  

At the end of the award ceremony held in the Work Café, Chemi Peres summed up his message on a personal note: “Believe in yourself. But don’t think of yourself, think of something bigger than all of us.” This is, in his view, how innovation works and how you advance more than just your own country.

Believe in yourself. But don’t think of yourself, think of something bigger than all of us.

Nechemia J. Peres, Reinhard Mohn Prize 2020 Laureate