Mehrdad Nikoonahad

Visiting Professor at the University of Trento

Start-Up Lab is a must for all student!

Mehrdad Nikoonahad

30+ years in innovation leadership and management. Public company and entrepreneurial experience with a passion for technology. Named inventor on 100+ patents/applications and author of 50 papers. Ph.D. EE (University College London, UK), EPGC (Stanford University, CA). He was VP of Technology at KLA-Tencor Corporation a world leader in semiconductor inspection and metrology systems and the founder and CEO at Pantoe Inc. a solar energy company located in Menlo Park, California.

What made you join CLab?

Last year I gave 3 seminars at EIT Digital on Technology Entrepreneurship. Alessandro Rossi extended an invitation for being a Visiting Professor for 3 months at the Department of Economic and Management. I am very impressed with the fact that both Alessandro and Vittorino are so forward looking and teach students to look for their future, to be entrepreneurs and start companies. This is very unusual for Italian universities that normally focused on traditional teaching. So I decided to accept this offer and help with this effort.

What did you learn from CLab?

One of the things that I like the most is the fact that we are teaching the students to work in teams. Most of the students are not graduated yet, they are still at the university and so far have been very individual-oriented in their learning process. As far as I know Italian high school education does not encourage team work. Working in a team is of huge importance, especially if they are thinking of starting a company. Being team-oriented is key. In California even though we have some of the worst schools in the whole of the US children learn from an early age to work in teams and have tolerance for others. In California we have a huge diversity of people and in general people get along well with each other. So I am happy to see this here, for the first time in Italy, in the Contamination Lab, where people are from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities and they share experiences and knowledge.

How did you like living in Trento?

Trento is a nice clean city. I enjoy being here although I normally prefer bigger cities. I love the river here and I would like to go climbing the mountains and I am looking for some partners to do that. In terms of food, I am vegan so it is difficult for me to eat here and I end up cheating all the time. I found though a shop not too far from my apartment; they have good vegan food there. Prices are at least 3 times more expensive than in California but it is ok. Fresh air and joyful people are the added value for being here.

What did you learn from and give back to CLab?

I am witnessing for the first time Italy is diverging from old fashioned traditional teaching and is preparing the students for the fast-paced world of business and entrepreneurship. The fact that all teaching is in English prepares the students to have a competitive edge at the international stage and last but not least I am impressed that there is so much emphasis on team work.