The government will significantly boost its support for industry and hi-tech located in the country’s periphery in the next 12 months, Economy Minister Eli Cohen promised Tuesday, with NIS 920 million (approx. $253 million) set to be invested in northern Israel.

“In the past decade, Israeli governments have lost sight of the North and not invested sufficient resources, and therefore its development has come to a halt,” Cohen told the opening session of the “Facing North” conference in Nahariya on Tuesday.

“Strong cities are those with strong industry, developed industrial zones and high-quality employment,” he said. “Israel is the Start-Up Nation, but hi-tech cannot only be located between Herzliya and Ramat Gan.”

Representatives from northern towns that may stand to benefit from the extra investment were present at the conference, including industry leaders and mayors from Nahariya, Afula, Metulla, Kfar Vradim and the Arab town of Sakhnin.

“We are here to shrink the gaps that have been created,” Cohen said. “We will invest NIS 920 million in the coming year in the northern periphery, and millions more to strengthen northern hi-tech in partnership with the Innovation Authority.”

Cohen’s announcement of investment in the periphery follows plans released in April, in which the government said it would invest approximately NIS 500 million ($142 million) into four of Israel’s periphery towns: Kiryat Shmona, Metulla and Shlomi in the North, and Yeroham in the South.

Additional investment in Israel’s periphery follows the government’s approval of a new map of national priority areas for the years 2018 to 2021, which permits the government to grant benefits and incentives to listed communities to assist their development and progress.

Welcoming the announcement, Economy Ministry director-general Shay Rinsky elaborated on the ministry’s plans for investment.

Projects due to be launched in the coming year, Rinsky announced, will include the establishment of an institute for advanced manufacturing, an institute for food innovation and a biotechnological incubator.

“We are here to promote industry in the periphery in general, and northern Israel in particular,” Rinsky said.