Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 477–501 | Cite as

The evolving knowledge base of professional service sectors

  • Davide Consoli
  • Dioni Elche
Regular Article


The objective of the paper is to analyse the degree of heterogeneity across Professional Service sectors. While previous research concentrates on the criteria of industrial classification of these sectors, we propose an empirical analysis of employment structures and the associated skill bases. By shifting the focus from sectoral ‘boundaries’ to sectoral ‘structures’ we are able to appreciate under a novel perspective the emergence and evolution of specialization patterns.


Professional service sectors Skill intensity Cross-sectoral variety 

JEL Classification

O33 J24 L84 



We would like to thank the administrators of the National Center for O*NET Development for making data available. We thank participants at the 6th Iberian International Business Conference (Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain) and at the Stan Metcalfe Festschrift (University of Manchester, England) for comments on a preliminary version of this manuscript. The remarks by Stan Metcalfe, Peter Allen, Cristiano Antonelli, Franco Malerba, Franco Montobbio, Pier Paolo Saviotti and Ulrich Witt are gratefully acknowledged. D. Consoli acknowledges financial support from the European Community (FP7-PEOPLE-IEF-2008-235278). The usual caveats apply.


  1. Abbott A (1988) The system of professions: an essay on the division of expert labor. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  2. Acemoglu D, Aghion P, Zilibotti F (2006) Distance to frontier, selection, and economic growth. J Eur Econ Assoc 4(1):37–74, 03CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amara N, Landry R, Doloreux D (2009) Patterns of innovation in knowledge-intensive business services. Serv Ind J 29(4):407–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Antonelli C (1998) Localized technological change, new information technology and the knowledge and the knowledge-based economy: the European evidence. J Evol Econ 8:177–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Antonelli C (2008) Localized technological change: towards the economics of complexity. Routledge, London and New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Autor D, Levy F, Murnane R (2003) The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration. Q J Econ 118:1279–1333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barley SR (2005) What we know (and mostly don’t know) about technical work. In: Ackroyd S, Batt R, Thompson P, Tolbert PS (eds) The Oxford handbook of work and organization. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 377–403Google Scholar
  8. Barley SR, Kunda G (2001) Bringing work back. Organ Sci 12(1):76–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berger S, PioreM(1980) Dualism and discontinuity in industrialised societies. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Bettencourt LA, Ostrom AL, Brown SW, Roundtree RI (2002) Client co-production in knowledge-intensive business services. Calif Manage Rev 44(4):100–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blau PM, Scott WR (1962) Formal organizations: a comparative approach. Chandler, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  12. Blauner R (1964) Alienation and freedom. The factory worker and his industry. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  13. Braverman H (1974) Labor and monopoly capital. The degradation of work in the twentieth century. Monthly Review Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Breschi S, Malerba F, Orsenigo L (2000) Technological regimes and Schumpeterian patterns of innovation. Econ J 110:388–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Caroli E (2001) New technologies, organizational change and the skill bias: what do we know? In: Petit P, Soete L (eds) Technology and the future of employment in Europe. Edward ElgarGoogle Scholar
  16. Castellacci F (2008) Technological paradigms, regimes and trajectories: manufacturing and service industries in a new taxonomy of sectoral patterns of innovation. Res Policy 37(6–7):978–994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cohen WM, Levinthal DA (1989) Innovation and learning: the two faces of R&D. Econ J 99:569–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Collins R (1990) Changing conceptions of the sociology of the professions. In: Torstendahl R, Burrage M (eds) The formation of professions: knowledge, state and strategy. Sage, London, pp 11–23Google Scholar
  19. Consoli D (2007) Services and systemic innovation: a cross-sectoral perspective. J Inst Econ 3(1):71–89Google Scholar
  20. Consoli D, Elche-Hortelano D (2010) Variety in the knowledge base of knowledge intensive business services. Res Policy 39(10):1303–1310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Corrocher N, Cusmano L, Morrison A (2009) Modes of innovation in knowledge-intensive business services evidence from Lombardy. J Evol Econ 19(2):173–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crompton R, Jones G (1984) White-collar proletariat. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. David PA (2000) Path dependence, its critics and the quest for ‘historical economics’. In: Garrouste P, Ioannides S (eds) Evolution and path dependence in economic ideas: past and present. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  24. Den Hertog P (2000) Knowledge-intensive business services as co-producers of innovation. Int J Innov Manag 4(4):491–528Google Scholar
  25. Den Hertog P, Bilderbeek R (2000) The new knowledge infrastructure: the role of technology-based knowledge-intensive business services in national innovation systems. In: Boden M, Miles I (eds) Services and the knowledge-based economy. Continuum, London, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Dosi G (1988) Sources, procedures and microeconomic effects of innovation. J Econ Lit 26:1120–1126Google Scholar
  27. Drejer I (2004) Identifying innovation in surveys of services: a Schumpeterian perspective. Res Policy 33:551–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) (2009) Skill mismatch: identifying priorities for future research. Working paper no 3. Available at:
  29. European Commission (2008) New skills for new jobs: anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs. Communication from the commission to the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions. Publications Office, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  30. Freel M (2005) Patterns of innovation and skills in small firms. Technovation 25(2):123–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Freel M (2006) Patterns of technological innovation in knowledge intensive business services. Ind Innov 13(3):335–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Friedmann G (1946) Problémes humains du machinisme industriel. Gallimard, ParisGoogle Scholar
  33. Gallie D (2007) Task discretion and job quality. In: Gallie D (ed) Employment regimes and the quality of work. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gallie D, Felstead A, Green F (2004) Changing patterns of task discretion in Britain. Work Employ Soc 18(2):243–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Galor O, Moav O (2000) Ability-biased technological transition, wage inequality, and economic growth. Q J Econ 115:469–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Geroski PA, Machin S, Van Reenen J (1993) The profitability of innovating firms. Rand J Econ 24(2):198–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Giuri P, Ploner M, Rullani F, Torrisi S (2010) Skills, division of labor and performance in collective inventions: evidence from open source software. Int J Ind Organ 28(1):54–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Goldin C, Katz LF (2008) The race between education and technology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  39. Gordon D, Edwards R, Reich M (1982) Segmented work, divided workers. The historical transformation of labour in the United States. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  40. Greenwood R, Hinings CR, Brown J (1990) “P2-form” strategic management: corporate practices in professional service firms. Acad Manag J 33:725–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hinings CR, Brown JL, Greenwood R (1991) Change in an autonomous professional organization. J Manag Stud 28:375–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hipp C (1999) Knowledge-intensive business services in the new mode of knowledge production. Al & Soc 13:88–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hitt MA, Bierman L, Shimizu K, Kochhar R (2001) Direct and moderating effects of human capital on strategy and performance in professional service firms: a resource-based perspective. Acad Manage J 44(1):13–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Henderson R, Cockburn I (1996) Scale, scope, and spillovers: the determinants of research productivity in drug discovery. Rand J Econ 27(1):32–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Howell D, Wolff E (1992) Technical change and the demand for skills by US industries. Camb J Econ 16:128–146Google Scholar
  46. Johnson J, Baldwin J, Diverty B (1996) The implications of innovation for human resource strategies. Futures 28:103–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kamien MI, Schwartz NL (1982) Market structure and innovation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  48. Kerr C, Dunlop J, Harbison F, Myers C (1960) Industrialism and industrial man. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Kline SJ, Rosenberg N (1986) An overview of innovation. In: Landau R, Rosenberg N (eds) The positive sum strategy: harnessing technology for economic growth. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 275–305Google Scholar
  50. Kogut B, Zander U (1992) Knowledge of the firm, combinative capabilities, and the replication of technology. Organ Sci 3(3):383–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kuusisto J, Meyer M (2003) Insights into services and innovation in the knowledge intensive economy. Technology Review 134/2003, Tekes, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  52. Lavoie M, Therrien P (2005) Different strokes for different folks: examining the effects of computerization on Canadian workers. Technovation 25(8):883–894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Leiponen A (2000) Competencies, innovation and profitability of firms. Econ Innov New Technol 9(1):1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Leiponen A (2005) Skills and innovation. Int J Ind Organ 23:303–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Levy F, Murnane RJ (2004) The new division of labor: how computers are creating the next job market. Russell Sage Foundation, Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  56. Los B, Verspagen B (2004) Technology spillovers and their impact on productivity. In: Hanusch H, Pyka A (eds) Elgar companion to neo-schumpeterian economics. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UKGoogle Scholar
  57. Lowendhal BR, Revang O, Fosstenlokken SM (2001) Knowledge and value creation in professional service firms: a framework for analysis. Hum Relat 54(7):911–931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Maister D (1993) Managing professional service firms. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. Malerba F (2002) Sectoral systems of innovation and production. Res Policy 31:247–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Malerba F (2005) Sectoral systems: how and why innovation differs across sectors. In: Fagerberg J, Mowery D, Nelson RR (eds) The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  61. Malerba F, Montobbio F (2003) Exploring factors affecting international technological specialization: the role of knowledge flows and the structure of innovative activity. J Evol Econ 13:411–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Malerba F, Orsenigo L (1996) Schumpeterian patterns of innovations are technology specific. Res Policy 25:451–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Malhotra N, Morris T (2009) Heterogeneity in professional service firms. J Manag Stud 46(6):895–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Marchington M, Wilkinson A (2000) Direct participation. In: Bach S, Sisson K (eds) Personnel management: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice, 3rd edn. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  65. Metcalfe JS (1998) Evolutionary economics and creative destruction. Routledge, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Metcalfe JS (2002) Knowledge of growth and the growth of knowledge. J Evol Econ 12:3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Miles I (2005) Innovation in services. In: Fagerberg J, Mowery D, Nelson RR (eds) The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  68. Miles I, Kastrinos N, Flanagan K., Bilderbeek R, den Hertog B, Huntink W, Bouman M (1995) Knowledge-intensive business services: users, carriers and sources of innovation. European Innovation Monitoring System (EIMS), EIMS publication no 15, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  69. Miozzo M, Soete L (2001) Internationalisation of services: a technological perspective. Technol Forecast Soc Change 67(2):159–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mowery D, Nelson R (1999) The sources of industrial leadership. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Muller E, Doloreux D (2009) What we should know about Knowledge-Intensive Business Services (KIBS). Technol Soc 31(1):64–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Muller E, Zenker A (2001) Business services as actors of knowledge transformation: the role of KIBS in regional and national innovation systems. Res Policy 30(9):1501–1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. National Research Council (2010) A database for a changing economy: review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Panel review for occupational information network. Committee on national statistics, division of behavioral and social sciences and education. The National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  74. Neffke F, Henning MS (2009) Skill-relatedness and firm diversification. Max Planck Institute of Economics Evolutionary Economics Group, Papers on Economics and EvolutionGoogle Scholar
  75. Nelson RR (1991) Why do firms differ, and how does it matter? Strateg Manage J 12(2):61–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Nelson RR (1994) The co-evolution of technology, industrial structure and supporting institutions. Ind Corp Change 3:47–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Nelson RR, Winter S (1982) An evolutionary theory of economic change. Harvard University Press, Cambdige, MAGoogle Scholar
  78. Nonaka I, Takeuchi H (1995) The knowledge-creating company. Oxford University Press, New York, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  79. Pavitt K (1984) Sectoral patterns of innovation: towards a taxonomy and a theory. Res Policy 13, 343–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Pavitt K (2005) Innovation processes. In: Fagerberg J, Mowery D, Nelson RR (eds) The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  81. Piore MJ, Sabel CF (1984) The second industrial divide: possibilities for prosperity. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  82. Richardson GB (1972) The organisation of industry. Econ J 82(327):883–896CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Rosenberg N (1976) Perspectives on technology. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  84. Rothwell R, Freeman C, Horsley A, Jervis VTP, Robertson AB, Townsend J (1974) SAPPHO updated—project SAPPHO phase II. Res Policy 3:258–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Salter A, Tether BS (2006) Innovation in services. Through the looking glass of innovation studies. Background paper for Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Research’s Grand Challenge on Service Science, April 7Google Scholar
  86. Scott Long J (1997) Regression models for categorical and limited dependent variables. Advanced quantitative techniques in the social sciences, 7. Sage PublicationsGoogle Scholar
  87. Simon HA (1969) The sciences of the artificial. MIT Press, Cambridge, MassGoogle Scholar
  88. Teece DJ (1986) Profiting from technological innovation. Res Policy 15(6):285–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Tether BS (2003) The sources and aims of innovation in services: variety between and within sectors. Econ Innov New Technol 12(6):481–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Tether B, Mina A, Consoli D, Gagliardi D (2005) How does successful innovation impact on the demand for skills and how do skills drive innovation: a literature reviewGoogle Scholar
  91. Van Dijk M (2000) Technological regimes and industrial dynamics: the evidence from Dutch manufacturing. Ind Corp Change 9:173–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Violante GL (2008) Skill-biased technical change. In: Durlauf SN, Blume LE (eds) The new Palgrave dictionary of economics, 2nd ednGoogle Scholar
  93. Von Nordenflycht A (2010) What is a professional service firm? Toward a theory and taxonomy of knowledge-intensive firms. Acad Manage Rev 35(1):155–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Vona F, Consoli D (2011) Innovation and skill dynamics: a life-cycle approach. Documents de Travail de l’OFCE 2011-26, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE)Google Scholar
  95. Walton RE (1985) From control to commitment in the workplace. Harvard Bus Rev 85(2):77–84Google Scholar
  96. Wilkinson A (2002) Empowerment. In: Warner M (eds) International encyclopedia of business and management. Thomson Learning Europe, LondonGoogle Scholar
  97. Winch G, Schneider E (1993) Managing the knowledgebased organization: the case of architectural practice. J Manag Stud 30:923–937CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Zenker A, Doloreux D (2008) KIBS, perceptions and innovation patterns. Int J Serv Technol Manag 10(2/3/4):337–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Zuboff S (1988) In the age of the smart machine: the future of work and power. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INGENIO (CSIC-UPV)ValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of Castilla La-ManchaCuencaSpain

Personalised recommendations