This month's feature explores business plan competitions. You might ask, why, on a scientific career Web site, should we do an entire feature on business plan competitions? Well, these competitions have increased in number and popularity over the last couple of years, and we've been finding that many scientists use them as launch pads for starting their businesses.

Getting involved in a business plan competition does four things. First, it gets you thinking about your scientific exploits in a more structured, more businesslike way. This can help you focus your goals, even if these goals are simply to do the necessary experiments, write up your thesis, and move on. Second, participating in a business plan competition will get you out of the lab and help you network in the business community. Third, most business plan competitions are judged by venture capitalists. These people are usually very busy and rarely take the time to mentor prospective entrepreneurs. Finally, entering a business plan competition may help you get the publicity you need to find funding and actually get your business started!

BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITIONS AROUND THE WORLD

We've divided this feature into three sections. The first explores the many available business plan competitions. In it, we highlight two competitions: The CIBC Ivey Business Plan Competition and the Merrill Lynch Innovations Grant. We also talk to Peter Kolchinsky, founder of the Harvard Biotech Club. The club has started a business plan competition of their own. Finally, we've built a list of other international competitions you might think of entering.

WINNING PERSPECTIVES

The second section features essays by scientists who have entered competitions. These articles are meant to explain why a scientist gets involved in these competitions and inspire you to enter one yourself. Here, Gareth Griffiths discusses his success in the Biotechnology YES competition in the U.K., Rico Berger, now CEO of ActinoDrug GmbH in Germany, tells us how a business plan competition helped start his company, and Jean Chatellier discusses business plans and his formation of Avidis, a biotech company in France. As well, we profile Bruce Lahn, the third-place winner of last year's Merrill Lynch Innovations Grant in the U.S.

HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN BUSINESS PLAN

In the third section, we get you started on how to write your own business plan. This section includes links to the long-running Next Wave feature on how to write a business plan, as well as an article written by a venture capitalist, Giovanni Ferrara, on how they judge these plans.

CONTINUOUS COVERAGE

As part of this feature, we are also pleased to announce another Next Wave collaboration: This time with a group promoting science entrepreneurship in Germany. Robert Metzke, our German Editor, tells us all about this series of essays, starting today in Next Wave's German site.

So read on, and learn a bit about business plan competitions. And why you might want to be involved.