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Students Started a Company with their Teacher

Khaled Ahmad and Mirza Cenanovic use mathematics to predict the future of technological products. They became friends during the orientation week (introduction week) of the Mechanical Engineering Programme, and today, five years later, they run the company FEMit with their mathematics' teacher Bertil Nilsson.

When Khaled Ahmad and Mirza Cenanovic did their degree project (which they won a scholarship for) at Husqvarna AB, they experienced that it was sometimes difficult to find someone who could help them when they ran into problems that needed expertise.

"We realised that there was a need for excellence in areas that were unfamiliar to us," says Mirza Cenanovic.

Good atmosphere. "To be honest, I'm too social to just work with mathematics, I talk all the time," says teacher and entrepreneur Bertil Nilsson, who runs the company FEMit with his old students Khaled Ahmad and Mirza Cenanovic.

Said and done: they complemented their Mechanical Engineering Degree with a Masters in Computer Science and Engineering at Halmstad University. During their years in the engineering programme, Mathematics teacher and Technology Doctor of Science Bertil Nilsson noticed the two ambitious students and convinced them to start a company together. "I have started businesses before. It is always exciting to have something apart from research and teaching. I just love solving engineering problems," says Bertil Nilsson.

Mathematics as a business concept

It seemed an obvious choice for Khaled Ahmad and Mirza Cenanovic to start a business. They had discovered there was a demand on the market and had become inspired by other students who had business plans.

Their business concept is, with the help of mathematics, to help companies predict how their products react under stress. This method, which has long been used in the automotive and aerospace industry, is called finite element method (FEM) and is where the company gets its name.

"With the aid of mathematics, we can describe everything that is around us. For those wishing to remain in the industry, these calculations are a competitive tool, something that big businesses are well aware of today," says Bertil Nilsson, who has 35 years experience in applied mathematics within industry and academia.

Take the plunge — start your own company

FEMit will, for the next three years, be found at the Science Park Halmstad, a business incubator operated in collaboration with Halmstad University; which can be described as a greenhouse for newly-started businesses. They recommend students, who are considering starting their own business, to take the plunge.

"Just do it! Check out the market, and if there seems to be a demand; go for it. The actual business idea may however, emerge during the education. There are actually a couple of courses where you learn to identify needs and demands. It all starts with a user, which is the starting point," says Mirza Cenanovic.

SciencePark Halmstad - support for entrepreneurs

As a student at Halmstad University, you have the possibility to test your business idea at the University's pre-incubator. There, you will have among other things, access to free office space and coaching for up to twelve months.

After the pre-incubator time, it is possible to apply for the incubator at the Science Park Halmstad. There you will receive help such as business coaching among other things, to establish the company on the market for up to 24 months. In conjunction with the Science Park Halmstad, there is a business hotel for those wishing to remain in the environment after their time in the incubator. Science Park Halmstad is jointly owned by Halmstad University and the Municipality of Halmstad.

Text: Martin Ådahl Image: Christel LIND, IDA LÖVSTÅL

Josefine Nilsson is a student motivator at Halmstad University. Her job is to inspire students to start their own business.

Updated 2011-12-20