Learning through urban labour pools: Collected worker experiences and innovation in services
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionHerstad. S.J., Solheim, M.C.W., Engen, M. (2019) Learning through urban labour pools: Collected worker experiences and innovation in services. Environment and planning A, 51(8), pp. 1720-1740. 10.1177/0308518X19865550
Knowledge-intensive services firms (KIS) depend on the skills and networks of employees, and tend to cluster in large-city regions. This raises the fundamental question of whether KIS ‘learn through urban labour pools’ in manners that have implications for innovation. To address it, a distinction is in this paper made between ‘related variety’ (RV) and ‘unrelated variety’ (URV) of work-life experiences collected by employees and combined in firms. The empirical analysis uses innovation survey and register data to demonstrate that higher levels of URV among staff in urban KIS inspire innovation activity, and increase the probability of innovation success. Outside cities, where KIS on average have more specialised knowledge bases, innovation responds negatively to URV and positively to RV. As a result, the sign, size and significance of urban-rural dividing lines in innovation propensities depend on whether firms have cultivated the skill profiles that are most conducive to innovation in their locations. Constraints faced specifically by KIS outside cities in this respect are identified and implications for policy drawn.