University of Cambridge


Succeeding through Service Innovation

Service systems are dynamic configurations of people,  technologies, organisations and shared information that create and deliver value to customers, providers and other stakeholders. They form a growing proportion of the world economy and are becoming central to the way businesses, governments, families and individuals work. Innovation, a term applied almost exclusively to technologies in the past, is increasingly used in relation to service systems.

Ideas of service are, of course, not new. However, the scale, complexity and interdependence of today’s service systems have been driven to an unprecedented level, due to globalisation, demographic changes and technology developments. The rising significance of service and the accelerated rate of change mean that service innovation is now a major challenge to practitioners in business and government as well as to academics in education and research. A better understanding of service systems is


Many individual strands of knowledge and expertise relating to service systems already exist, but they often lie in unconnected silos. This no longer reflects the reality of interconnected economic activities which, for example, sees manufacturers of engineering products adopting service-oriented business models and health care providers learning lessons from modern manufacturing operations. Indeed, there are wide gaps in our knowledge and skills across silos.


In response, Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME), or in short Service Science, is emerging as a distinct field. Its vision is to discover the underlying logic of complex service systems and to establish a common language and shared frameworks
for service innovation. To this end, an interdisciplinary approach should be adopted for research and education on service systems.

Developing Service Science is no easy task; it not only requires intensive collaboration across academic disciplines but also a doubling of R&D investment in service education and research by governments and businesses. All stakeholders must start to engage each other and make plans for service innovation.


For those responsible for creating a service innovation roadmap, this white paper provides a starting point to raise awareness. For those who have already developed

such roadmaps, it serves as a benchmark for improvement. More specifically, drawing upon the expertise and experience of leading academics and senior practitioners,
this document makes the following interrelated recommendations:

For education

Enable graduates from various disciplines to become T-shaped professionals or adaptive innovators; promote SSME education programmes and qualifications; develop a modular template-based SSME curriculum in higher education and extend to other levels of education; explore new teaching methods for SSME education.

For research

Develop an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach to service research; build bridges between disciplines through grand research challenges; establish service system and value proposition as foundational concepts; work with practitioners to create
data sets to understand the nature and behaviour of service systems; create modelling and simulation tools for service systems.

For business

Establish employment policies and career paths for T-shaped professionals; review existing approaches to service innovation and provide grand challenges for service systems research; provide funding for service systems research; develop appropriate
organisational arrangements to enhance industryacademic collaboration; work with stakeholders to include sustainability measures.

For government

Promote service innovation and provide funding for SSME education and research; demonstrate the value of Service Science to government agencies; develop relevant measurements and reliable data on knowledge intensive service activities; make public service systems more comprehensive and citizen-responsive; encourage public hearings, workshops and briefings with other stakeholders to develop service innovation roadmaps.

Service Science is still in its infancy; but we are confident that, by adopting these recommendations, we can accelerate its development and place ourselves in a better
position to create and benefit from service innovation in the future.

ISBN 978-1-902546-65-0
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