Service and social innovations: Policy needs and potential impacts

Luis Rubalcaba

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter or book articleProfessional


The SOPPI project addresses the interaction between service innovation and social innovation. Service innovation and social innovation are two research and policy areas that have seldom been approached as connected. Both researchers and policymakers have dealt with the two topics in a separate or parallel manner. This project represents the first attempt to explore the two topics via a holistic approach. On the one hand, service innovation is often understood as a new way of doing business that has the provision of new or improved services as its main target. But service innovation is much more than a way of bringing improvement to private enterprise. Service innovation can be social to a large extent: in the provision of public and social services but also within provision of private services. Social innovation can be considered a way of transforming all dimensions of service innovation we are accustomed to dealing with: i) innovation in service-related sectors, ii) service innovation in businesses, iii) innovation through services, and iv) service-innovation networks. Social innovation can transform each of these four traditional dimensions, as in the case of i) getting patients involved in a health innovation, ii) having clients and organisations involved in service innovation promoted by a car manufacturing company, iii) having various knowledge-intensive services offering multi-partner alliances to cope with a particular logistics problem affecting distribution operations, or iv) transforming traditional public-private innovation networks (PPP operations) into truly innovation-oriented networks when third-sector agents are involved also, not only public and private agents. At the same time, it is the common understanding that social innovation is a part of innovation related to the third sector, charities, and social entrepreneurship. This is only partly true. Social innovation is much more than a way of improving social activities - it may represent a way of innovating in any part of the economy that can have services at its heart. We can identify it in all of the examples mentioned in previous paragraphs just as we can identify service innovation in many of the social initiatives promoted by purely social and third-sector organisations. Service innovation is necessary for making social innovation effective. Therefore, social innovation is linked to service innovation, and vice versa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHighlights in service research
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
ISBN (Electronic)978-951-38-7969-3
ISBN (Print)978-951-38-7968-6
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeD2 Article in professional manuals or guides or professional information systems or text book material

Publication series

SeriesVTT Research Highlights


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