Report calls for new support and funding for service innovation

28 May 2008

The University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing has released a new white paper, based on the Cambridge Service Science, Management and Engineering Symposium held in July 2007. Sponsored by IBM and BAE Systems, this meeting was attended by leading academics and business leaders from a range of different sectors. The new report, Succeeding through Service Innovation, looks at key service systems including healthcare that are crucial to the modern economy, and underlines the current paucity of funding for service innovation from governments, businesses and universities. Service innovation refers to developments that improve service delivery via changes in the way that technology, people, organisations and information work

The report notes that although relevant expertise does exist, it tends to be distributed across separate disciplines, and calls instead for a systematic and interdisciplinary approach to services innovation. Professor Mike Gregory, Head of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and co-author of the report commented: “…there are enormous opportunities for companies and economies that are able to integrate science, technology, production and service (see press release).

Recommendations include that:

  • Researchers and academics should develop an interdisciplinary and inter-cultural approach to service research
  • Businesses should establish employment policies for T-shaped professionals, to enhance collaboration between industry and academia and provide ‘grand challenges’ for service systems research
  • Governments should promote and fund service innovation, education and research, as well as developing “relevant measurements and reliable data on knowledge intensive service activities”

Comment: Although the scope of this paper extends far beyond just healthcare systems, it is interesting that the emphasis on ‘bridging the gaps’ and building multidisciplinary collaborative models of research and delivery echo the approaches advocated by the PHG Foundation.

The report refers to ‘T-shaped professionals’, defined as individuals who are “deep problem solvers in their home discipline but also capable of interacting with and understanding specialists from a wide range of disciplines and functional areas”. This is a very apt description of many of the Foundation staff; experts from various disciplines, they also possess much wider experience and understanding of other relevant fields, allowing them to act as effective knowledge brokers. Public health genomics seeks to integrate knowledge from genetic and molecular science along with other relevant disciplines, in order to drive translation of this science into improved population health.

It seems that the underlying processes required for the effective transfer of knowledge from different sources into improved services (referred to in the report as the fundamental challenges in integrating various strands of knowledge”) are shared across different types of service.

To learn more about how the Foundation works to bridge the knowledge gap in healthcare, by working with expert partners and stakeholders, see our What we do pages.

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