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The Wave of Next-Generation Innovators Forward-thinking entrepreneurs are making strides in promising areas--from nanotech to biotech to semiconductors. Will any of them build the next Microsoft?

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Scott Rickert wants to make countless homes energy-efficient--and even self-cleaning--with his nanotechnology films. Linda Pinney hopes to sell her automated prescription-pickup kiosks to the nation's 40,000 big-chain pharmacies. Heng Liu's prospects are even more ambitious--Liu wants to, as one of his investors puts it, "replace all the bulbs in all the offices in the world" with his light-emitting semiconductors.

Whether one of these entrepreneurs' companies becomes the next Microsoft, Dell or Google, there's little doubt they operate in some of the most promising fields. Pinney, 44, founded Asteres Inc., a San Diego company in the red-hot medical devices space.

Rickert, 52, has Cleveland-based, multimillion-dollar Nanofilm Ltd. poised to exploit one of business's most talked-about areas. Liu, 46, has patents on technology that could save billions in energy costs every year.