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Innovation in service industries in France: results of a postal survey

Listed author(s):
  • Faridah Djellal

    (CLERSE - UMR 8019 - CLERSE - Centre lillois d'études et de recherches sociologiques et économiques - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - Université de Lille, Sciences et Technologies)

  • Faïz Gallouj

    (CLERSE - UMR 8019 - CLERSE - Centre lillois d'études et de recherches sociologiques et économiques - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - Université de Lille, Sciences et Technologies)

The question of innovation in service industries is a recent concern, as much for researchers as public authorities. The importance of service industries in our economies, whether it is measured by their contribution to employment or to the gross domestic product, has led researchers and authorities alike to reconsider a number of analyses inherited from the industrial and agricultural past ; analyses which regard services as a residual sector, peripheral and undynamic; unproductive, with low capital intensity and skill levels; and, the point which interests us here, resistant to innovation. This idea that services innovate little can actually be broken down into two propositions: 1) they do not innovate at all; 2) they merely adopt technical systems designed and produced by the manufacturing sector, to which they adopt a subordinate attitude. If they are involved in innovation at all, it is more as clients of innovative firms than as innovators. A number of studies have highlighted the biased nature of these conclusions. Indeed, they are based on an industrial and technologist conception of innovation which cannot be applied to manufacturing anymore as well . The studies to which we refer, however, try to take account of the specificities generally attributed to services, namely their intangible and relational nature . A service is not only an end result, it is also an act, a process which unfolds over time and in the context of a (coproductive) relationship between a client and a service provider. Consequently, it cannot be stocked, and is difficult to repair. Similarly, it is difficult to separate the “product” from the process. Conceptions of innovation in services (and also in goods), and, consequently, the evaluation of its importance, can change if the specificities of innovation in services are taken into account. In other words, not only does innovation exist in services, but it is also far from being marginal. It can take different forms and be organised differently, etc. We do not intend to go over the different results in detail here. What must be remembered, however, is that they have stemmed, essentially, from qualitative studies based on interviews and monographs. Indeed, this kind of methodology appears to be most effective when the field of research is widely unknown and unexploited, and when the aim is to avoid sticking firmly to established conceptions (definitions, indicators etc.) which have become rigidified by practice, but which are not fully adapted to the economic phenomena being studied. In other words, qualitative studies are useful in that they allow what could be called conceptual and analytical “irreversibilities” to be circumvented to a certain extent. The object of this study is to go beyond this methodological stage, and to try and provide (in the case of France) generalisable quantitative results on innovation in services, based on a wide-ranging postal survey. The design of the questionnaire obviously integrates the results of the qualitative studies referred to above, particularly in terms of the definition and nature of innovation.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Working Papers with number hal-01111909.

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Date of creation: Jul 1998
Publication status: Published in [Research Report] Université Lille 1, CLERSE. 1998
Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-01111909
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  1. Jon Sundbo & Faïz Gallouj, 1998. "Innovation as a loosely coupled system in services," Post-Print halshs-01113675, HAL.
  2. Sundbo, Jon, 1994. "Modulization of service production and a thesis of convergence between service and manufacturing organizations," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 245-266, September.
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