Quest for service science

During the last 60 years we have been witnessing stunning growth of what the traditional economists refer to as the service sector. Service activities account for about 70-80 percent of all economic activity in most advanced industrial economies. Moreover, many service activities are hidden from the economic statistics, since those often describe only the services exchanged between economic actors. Thereby, when imagining all of those hidden service activities within our society (e.g. service activities within organisations or between individual people), you may begin to understand the fundamental role of service as a means of exchange and its massive significance to our well-being, jobs, society and economic growth.

Although service activities are increasingly understood as a basis for modern society, scientific understanding has been lacking holistic perspective into service phenomenon [1]. Main reason for this is the heavily siloed research by different academic disciplines that have viewed the service phenomenon from different – sometimes even conflicting – perspectives. To overcome this challenge, Chesbrough and Spohrer outlined a research manifesto for service science in 2006, where they call academics to unite their efforts to create a more holistic understanding about service phenomenon. They also vision that this multi-disciplinary effort could eventually become new transdisciplinary academic area called service science. The following figure illustrates some academic disciplines that have already contributed to the emergence of service science [2]. Nevertheless, many other scientific disciplines (such as psychology and law) may have important contribution to the future development of this area.

Service science
Figure 1. Examples of academic disciplines that have had important contribution to the emergence of service science.

The main objective of service science is to advance ability to design, improve and scale service systems and to create service innovations [3]. Based on its multi-disciplinary nature, service science aims to achieve these objectives by combining organization and human understanding with technological and business understanding. Our quest for service science relies heavily on VTT’s technological expertise that is acknowledged and well-known throughout the world. Yet our team especially aims to integrate these different perspectives (human, organization, technology and business) by studying value co-creation phenomenon within service systems. It means that we have to understand, for example:

  • how individual customer experiences service,
  • how organizations co-create value with their customers and partners,
  • how technologies are utilized to improve and scale service systems, and
  • how profitable business can be created and sustained within complex service networks and ecosystems.

Even though this kind of broad understanding is more and more needed in order to understand the increasing complexity of service systems, we also need deep understanding that helps to solve specific problems. Therefore, the success of our journey to service science is dependent of our ability to co-operate with people who have deeper knowledge of specific disciplines and industries (especially VTT’s top-level experts in technology and engineering) and to inspire them to pursue towards the same direction with us in their own journeys.


[1] Chesbrough, H. & Spohrer, J. (2006) A Research Manifesto for Services Science. Communications of the ACM, 49(7), pp.33-40.
[2] Spohrer, J. & Maglio, P. (2008) The Emergence of Service Science: Toward Systematic Service Innovations to Accelerate Co-Creation of Value, International Journal of Production and Operations Management, 17(3), pp. 238-246.
[3] Maglio, P. & Spohrer, J. (2008) Fundamentals of service science. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 36(1), pp.18-20.

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