Distinguishing knowledge types and the differential drivers of innovation among KIBS

Katia Pina, Bruce S. Tether

Research output: Working paper


Knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) are known to play a significant role in innovation systems. Past research has however mostly treated KIBS as a homogenous group. In this study, we apply a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to examine a dataset comprising 362 UK based KIBS firms active in three ‘sectors’: architecture and engineering consulting; specialist design; and software and IT consulting. Partly through applying content analysis techniques to information drawn from firms’ websites, we identify the primary ‘knowledge type’ of each firm, be that analytical, synthetic or symbolic knowledge. We also examine how the ‘drivers’ of innovation vary between firms with different primary knowledge types. The paper therefore contributes to the literature by developing a methodology for empirically identifying ‘knowledge types’ and by showing that the factors associated with innovation differ with the primary knowledge type of the firm. This contributes to understanding variety among KIBS. We also find that investments in design are particularly important for some innovation in KIBS, and discuss the need for further research on design as a ‘driver’ of innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Place of Publicationn.a.
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014

Publication series



  • Knowledge bases; innovation; knowledge intensive business services (KIBS); design


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