IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

R&D service firms: The hidden engine of the high-tech economy?

  • Probert, Jocelyn
  • Connell, David
  • Mina, Andrea
Registered author(s):

    R&D service firms are highly innovative knowledge-intensive businesses. They constitute an important component of the knowledge economy, but one that is often in the shadow of the role normally attributed to universities and other public research organisations in the growth of high tech clusters and, more broadly, innovation systems. In this paper we present evidence from an in-depth analysis of the strategy, practice and impact of a sample of R&D service providers long active in the Cambridge area, the leading science and technology cluster in the UK. Based on an extensive programme of interviews with companies’ CEOs and managers, we analyse: the main features of the R&D contract and the way in which this allows firms to de-risk the uncertain process of early technology development and to meet customer's needs; the services’ typical organisational features and development stages; the variety of observed growth paths. We provide evidence of the significant direct and indirect contribution to innovation of these service firms and conclude by discussing the implications of this original model of technology development in relation to the early-stage financing and university-led growth debates.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Research Policy.

    Volume (Year): 42 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 6 ()
    Pages: 1274-1285

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:42:y:2013:i:6:p:1274-1285
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Heidi Wiig Aslesen & Arne Isaksen, 2007. "Knowledge Intensive Business Services and Urban Industrial Development," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(3), pages 321-338, April.
    2. Aghion, P. & Howitt, P., 1989. "A Model Of Growth Through Creative Destruction," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 8904, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
    3. Bessant, John & Rush, Howard, 1995. "Building bridges for innovation: the role of consultants in technology transfer," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 97-114, January.
    4. Nicholas Oulton, 2000. "Must the growth rate decline? Baumol's unbalanced growth revisited," Bank of England working papers 107, Bank of England.
    5. Czarnitzki, Dirk & Spielkamp, Alfred, 2000. "Business services in Germany: bridges for innovation," ZEW Discussion Papers 00-52, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    6. John R. Bryson & Grete Rusten, 2005. "Spatial divisions of expertise: Knowledge intensive business service firms and regional development in Norway," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(8), pages 959-977, December.
    7. Santiago R. Martínez-Argüelles & Fernando Rubiera-Morollón, 2006. "Outsourcing of advanced business services in the Spanish economy: Explanation and estimation of the regional effects," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(3), pages 267-285, April.
    8. Cristiano Antonelli, 1998. "Localized technological change, new information technology and the knowledge-based economy: The European evidence," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 177-198.
    9. Elizabeth Garnsey & Paul Heffernan, 2005. "High-technology clustering through spin-out and attraction: The Cambridge case," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(8), pages 1127-1144.
    10. Jorgenson, D.W. & Timmer, Marcel, 2010. "Structural Change in Advanced Nations: A New Set of Stylised Facts," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-115, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    11. Maine, Elicia & Garnsey, Elizabeth, 2006. "Commercializing generic technology: The case of advanced materials ventures," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 375-393, April.
    12. Garnsey, Elizabeth & Lorenzoni, Gianni & Ferriani, Simone, 2008. "Speciation through entrepreneurial spin-off: The Acorn-ARM story," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 210-224, March.
    13. Arora, Ashish & Fosfuri, Andrea & Gambardella, Alfonso, 2001. "Markets for Technology and Their Implications for Corporate Strategy," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 419-51, June.
    14. Pavitt, Keith, 1984. "Sectoral patterns of technical change: Towards a taxonomy and a theory," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 343-373, December.
    15. Perkmann, Markus & Walsh, Kathryn, 2008. "Engaging the scholar: Three types of academic consulting and their impact on universities and industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 1884-1891, December.
    16. Laursen, Keld & Salter, Ammon, 2004. "Searching high and low: what types of firms use universities as a source of innovation?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1201-1215, October.
    17. Tether, Bruce S. & Tajar, Abdelouahid, 2008. "Beyond industry-university links: Sourcing knowledge for innovation from consultants, private research organisations and the public science-base," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6-7), pages 1079-1095, July.
    18. Howells, Jeremy, 2006. "Intermediation and the role of intermediaries in innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 715-728, June.
    19. David C. Mowery & Bhaven N. Sampat, 2005. "The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and University--Industry Technology Transfer: A Model for Other OECD Governments?," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 30(2_2), pages 115-127, 01.
    20. Muller, Emmanuel & Zenker, Andrea, 2001. "Business services as actors of knowledge transformation: the role of KIBS in regional and national innovation systems," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1501-1516, December.
    21. Fontana, Roberto & Geuna, Aldo & Matt, Mireille, 2006. "Factors affecting university-industry R&D projects: The importance of searching, screening and signalling," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 309-323, March.
    22. Isabelle Huault & V. Perret & S. Charreire-Petit, 2007. "Management," Post-Print halshs-00337676, HAL.
    23. Faïz Gallouj & Faridah Djellal, 2010. "The Handbook of Innovation and Services: A Multi-disciplinary Perspective," Post-Print hal-01111763, HAL.
    24. D'Este, P. & Patel, P., 2007. "University-industry linkages in the UK: What are the factors underlying the variety of interactions with industry?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(9), pages 1295-1313, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:42:y:2013:i:6:p:1274-1285. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamier, Wendy)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.