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Cebit 2018: New course of study combines IT security with company foundation

Studying IT security while simultaneously establishing a company is exactly what a new course at the IT research center of Saarland University, Saarbrücken, offers. Over four semesters, students develop an idea for a start-up in the area of IT security, from initial prototypes through to market maturity. The best ideas attract grants to support new entrepreneurs and meetings with investors. Computer science researchers will present this new course of studies at CEBIT in Hanover.

In october 2018 Saarland University’s new master’s programme, “Entrepreneurial Cybersecurity” will commence. The course combines lectures on cybersecurity with the simultaneous formation of a company. Over three semesters, students will work in groups on a business idea in the field of IT security. “The objective is for students to be able to establish a company – either following completion or even during the course of their studies,” says Zeller. The idea is to develop and refine the business idea together with mentors from the worlds of science and commerce and turn current research topics into marketable products. The groups will regularly present their ideas to juries of scientists and sponsors, who will then decide which projects should advance and possibly receive investments. “At the end of the course students will, in a best-case scenario, not only have a master’s degree to their name, but will also have established their own company”, explains Professor Andreas Zeller, who teaches software engineering at Saarland University and carries out research at the CISPA Helmholtz Center.

The new course of studies raises high expectations, because the environment in Saarbrücken is optimal for entrepreneurs. In 2013, the German Federal Ministry of Research and Economic Affairs deemed Saarland University an “EXIST founder university” due to its exemplary support for start-ups. The CISPA Helmholtz Center, which will house up to 800 IT security researchers in its steady state, already has its own “incubator” which systematically leads IT security projects through to the formation of a company.

The university and CISPA will jointly guide and provide comprehensive support for the seed projects from day one. In terms of teaching too, the upcoming IT security entrepreneurs need not worry. Since 2014, some 287 students have signed up for the “Cyber Security” Bachelor’s degree programme. The current CHE University Ranking gives the Saarbrücken computer science and cyber security courses top marks nationwide. One eighth of the course is reserved for “free activities” such as entrepreneurship courses, business studies or the area of application, remarks Professor Zeller. However, the focus of the course remains quite clearly on the technology itself. If a company formation appears imminent, the teams are brought together with experienced business economists and company founders. For Zeller, who has himself established the company Testfabrik AG, linking IT security with company formation is a logical step. “In 2014 we were the first university to offer cyber security in a university environment and now we are the first to link IT security with establishing a company,” explains Zeller. Potential applicants must however, expect to face tough competition. Because of the high level of support required, only 30 student places are available. Students wishing to commence their studies in the winter semester 2018 must apply by July 15th, 2018.

Staff from Saarland University and the CISPA Helmholtz Center will provide further details about the IT security course during CEBIT at stand F68 in hall 27.

Background Information

Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC)

1,700 students from 81 nations are studying 15 computer-science-related courses in three established faculties at the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) of the University of Saarland. At two graduate schools and six globally respected research institutes more than 800 scientists are researching the entire spectrum of computer science related subjects and furthering progress, particularly in IT security, artificial intelligence, visual computing, bioinformatics and the semantic web – from the fundamentals right through to innovative applications. The SIC cooperates with international groups such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, promotes a large number of business start-ups with its IT incubator (ITI) and acts as a driver for further developments through industrial, research and development laboratories. The overall potential of the site is leveraged in order to take advantage of scientific publications, prizes, patent applications and technological innovations. Thanks to the excellent levels of expertise and competitiveness, joint success at the Saarland Informatics Campus is guaranteed.

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