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KTH researcher Elaheh Etemadi got an industry mentor

Portrait of Elaheh Etemadi
Elaheh Etemadi got a mentor in KTH Innovation's mentor program
Published Nov 05, 2020

Hi Elaheh Etemadi! You’re a PhD student at the Department of Solid Mechanics at KTH. This spring, you got a mentor to develop your commercialization project. Tell us more!

What was your commercialization project about?

A man who's welding with sparks flying around.
Elaheh's idea was to automate the inspection of welded joints.

In my PhD, I work with developing batteries for electric cars, but during my Masters in Engineering Mechanics I took a course in welding. There, I found out that all welded joints are checked manually for defects. I figured there should be an easier and more efficient way of doing this, so I wanted to develop a solution to automate the process. I’ve always known that I wanted to start a company in the future, and this was the first idea I tried to develop.

What was working with a mentor like?

I got a really good match! My mentor Håkan Nytorp has 30 years of experience from ABB and now he’s an investor, so he could contribute with plenty of different perspectives. He taught me so much about how to think, what’s important to focus on and he had great contacts to share.

What did you discuss in your meetings?

We met four times over Zoom and talked about lots of different subjects. As a researcher, you often want to solve a problem in the perfect way, but Håkan helped me focus on finding a real problem in society and figuring out the value of solving it. We talked about how to interview someone to get the answers you need, and he helped me find people who could give me feedback on my idea.

While working with Håkan, you also got support from KTH Innovation. Tell us about that!

I first heard about KTH Innovation at a workshop around two years ago, and ever since I have known that I would reach out at some point. This spring during Corona, I was wondering how to occupy myself after work, and I figured I might as well try developing an idea.

My coach Hannes is great! He has taught me so many things. First and foremost he stopped me when I wanted to do everything at once and in the wrong order. I wanted to start with developing the software and then check if it was something people would want to use. Instead, Hannes encouraged me to go out and talk to people to figure out if there was a need for my idea. I talked to plenty of people, from inspectors and managers at inspection companies, to professors at KTH.

What was it like combining life as a PhD student with developing an idea and working with a mentor?

It worked really well. Nothing was intense enough to require my full focus and as a PhD student, you can be quite flexible.

What are you working on now?

In the end, we figured out that there wasn’t a strong enough need idea for my idea, but I’m already looking for the next one. When we decided to stop developing it, I talked to my mentor Håkan about it. I said I really want to do this, to start a company, so Håkan helped me with tools and tips on how to come up with a good idea.

The classic question: would you recommend others to apply to the KTH Innovation mentor program?

Absolutely! Getting a mentor is one of the best things that has happened to me at KTH. As a researcher, it’s great to build bridges to the industry and to learn how to think in new ways.

Shared with Lisa Bäckman

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Nov 05, 2020