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Regular version of the site

Article

Knowledge-intensive business services in time of crisis: the coronavirus pandemic

Foresight. 2021. Vol. 23. No. 2. P. 125-153.

Purpose – Knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) firms focus on applying their expert knowledge to help solve the business problems of their clients: these clients confronted major new problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic and policy measures such as social distancing and travel restrictions, designed to reduce the rapid spread of the illness. Many KIBS were reliant upon extensive contact with clients, and within teams working on projects; they found their practices disrupted. This study aims to examine how KIBS are evolving to cope with both the sets of changes: those in their own operations, and those involving the emerging business problems of clients. Design/methodology/approach – The main data sources are material contained in websites of a sample of leading firms in a range of KIBS sectors, and in media reports and other documentation of efforts to confront the pandemic. Findings – The results indicate considerable efforts in KIBS to address emerging client problems, as well as to adapt their own practices. Their substantial role in confronting the pandemic and associated business difficulties has implications for future crises. KIBS are likely to be important players in shaping responses not only to future pandemics but also to the looming climate crisis. Originality/value – The study demonstrates the growing role of KIBS and their ‘‘second knowledge infrastructure’’ in modern economies, exemplified by their role in the context of an emerging crisis