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Regular version of the site

Article

Knowledge intensive business services: ambiguities and continuities

Foresight. 2018. Vol. 20. No. 1. P. 1-26.

Purpose

The substantial growth in literature on knowledge-intensive business services (KIBSs) has thrown light on their contributions to innovation and innovation systems. This paper is the first of a set that examines major debates and conclusions to have emerged from this growing body of evidence.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a review essay, which also presents relevant statistics. It addresses definitional issues and controversies, and sets out basic trends and characteristics of the KIBS industries. The focus is mainly on KIBS firms, though the production of similar services in other types of organisation is also considered.

Findings

Many of the conclusions of an earlier (2005) review in this journal remain valid, though difficulties in capturing these activities in official statistics mean that there are many issues that demand closer inspection. Understanding the role and future prospects of KIBS will also require looking beyond the literature that focuses just on KIBS industries.

Research limitations/implications

This study involves literature review and statistical analysis. Future work would benefit from involvement of practitioners and users of KIBS.

Practical implications

More explicit consideration of KIBS in statistical frameworks is still required, and novel approaches to data conceptualisation and production should be explored.

Originality/value

The growing literature on KIBS, and its implications for understanding the roles and future development of the firms and their relationships to innovation systems, requires systematic analysis. Available statistics have been brought together, and this paper also reflects critically on the trajectories of research on these topics.