Twenty teams are through the preliminary rounds of the Independent NatWest Management Challenge to be within sight of a place in the national final, which will give the winner the chance of going on to compete in Europe as well as the cash.
In the semi-final the participants, divided into four groups, have to start again with a share price of 1.19 ecus. The team in each group with the best share price at the end of the round will go forward to the final, which will take place in a London hotel next month.
The share price is moved up or down according to decisions made by the teams, in response to conditions created by the computer simulation designed by Edit 515, the Edinburgh-based academic team that developed the challenge. Greater realism than is available in some other business games is provided by competing directly against other teams in the group.
The company each team has to try to run is a medium-sized manufacturing company producing consumer goods for sale into mainland Europe and the United States. In order to do this effectively, team members must demonstrate a range of skills - including finance, production, marketing and personnel management. Some teams give individual members responsibility for each of these functions, while others, such as the team from Birmingham University featured in these pages earlier this year, take group decisions on each facet in each "quarter".
The economic situation confronting the teams is not bright. The world has been looking for an economic lead from the US, but - in the simulation - its own economy has been in depression for more than a year.
However, a number of teams have nudged their share prices. Last year's winner, Derbyshire-based Severn Trent Water, is leading one group with a stock price of 1.138 ecus. But the best performer so far is BPP Courses of London, with 1.229 ecus. The students from Birmingham are at the top of their group with 1.221 ecus and another Birmingham team - "Borg" - tops its group with 1.229 ecus.
The challenge provides teams with an opportunity to learn and refine business skills in a realistic environment.