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

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  • Probert, Jocelyn
  • Connell, David
  • Mina, Andrea

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Probert, Jocelyn & Connell, David & Mina, Andrea, 2013. "R&D service firms: The hidden engine of the high-tech economy?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 1274-1285.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:42:y:2013:i:6:p:1274-1285
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2013.03.004
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    Cited by:

    1. Harkonen, Janne & Haapasalo, Harri & Hanninen, Kai, 2015. "Productisation: A review and research agenda," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 65-82.
    2. Schasse, Ulrich & Schiller, Daniel & Leidmann, M. & Eckl, V. & Grave, Barbara S. & Kladroba, Andreas & Stenke, G., 2016. "Die Rolle von FuE-Dienstleistern im deutschen Innovationssystem," Studien zum deutschen Innovationssystem 8-2016, Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI) - Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, Berlin.
    3. Feser, Daniel & Bizer, Kilian & Rudolph-Cleff, Annette & Schulze, Joachim, 2016. "Energy audits in a private firm environment: Energy efficiency consultants' cost calculation for innovative technologies in the housing sector," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 275, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    4. Rosa Jordá-Borrell & Francisca Ruiz-Rodríguez & Reyes González-Relaño, 2015. "Factors and taxonomy of technology purchase (TP) by internationalized innovative companies in peripheral European regions," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 94, pages 139-174, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Business services; R&D services; Technology development; Dynamic capabilities; High-tech clusters; Innovation policy;

    JEL classification:

    • L84 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Personal, Professional, and Business Services
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General

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